(Writer's Note: This story was written Saturday, April 17. Since the story was published, sources close to the 49ers have confirmed to members of the media that the club is considering drafting Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen with the No. 13 pick overall. So, read knowing that the club has its eyes on a particular QB. -- Ted Sillanpaa, 4/19/10)
Before you throw your computer through the wall, watch "ESPN Sportscenter Special: Jon Gruden's Quarterback Camp," where former Super Bowl-winning head coach Jon Gruden meets with and critiques the play of quarterbacks Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Jimmy Clausen.
Gruden doesn't go easy on the quarterbacks. He points out strengths and picks away at weaknesses.Most of it is online .
The segment where Clausen watches Notre Dame's Clausen burn four timeouts on offense in a loss to Michigan was an revealing insight into the reconstruction process a hot-shot rookie will go through in the NFL.
Clausen, of course, is reportedly one of the players that the San Francisco 49ers are considering for their second first-round pick, No. 17 overall. After Gruden went through the hilarious, yet belittling process of watching each timeout, the former coach said, "Now...whatever you do...don't tell me you're gonna take a delay of the game here!"
Of course, after four offensive timeouts were wasted, Clausen did take a delay of the game penalty. Gruden asked him to explain what went wrong (think really, really hard and try to imagine how Tom Brady or Peyton Manning would answer the question).
"We weren't getting the plays in quite fast enough," Clausen told Gruden.
Gruden went silent and asked what the quarterback might've done to communicate that to the Irish sidelines. The passer said he should've made a hand motion indicating that things needed to speed up.
That wasn't the answer Gruden wanted and it wasn't what 49ers fans want from their quarterback either. Manning and Brady would respond with something like, "It's my job to keep things moving. If I'm not getting a play quickly enough, I have to move more quickly...I have to make it clear to the coaching staff that I have a problem."
Later, Gruden showed Clausen throw an interception against North Carolina and said, "Jimmy, tell me what happened here."
"I saw the defense and gave my receiver a hand signal to change the route to a fade," Clausen said. "He saw it, but he just didn't run a fade."
Gruden asked, "Who gets the blame for that?"
Clausen's answer was revealing. He didn't say, "I get the blame," but rather he said, "The quarterback does."
Clausen's got the physical tools to play quarterback in the NFL. Watching him with Gruden gave the impression that his ability to lead and learn aren't at the levels of Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow.
The University of Florida football star Tebow, as much as his many critics will hate reading it, stood out as clearly the most athletic, dedicated, hardest-working, single-minded quarterback in the bunch. We all know he's a winner. Gruden analyzed film with Tebow, then worked him out at at high school field.
"I think Tebow is going to be a tremendous pro. He must continue to work on some of his mechanics, and he might not be a starter right away, but in a very short period of time he's going to be an excellent NFL player," Gruden said.
Wait. Gruden saw Tebow's re-tooled footwork and throwing motion, too.
"The thing that most impressed me was when I talked to him about working on his mechanics, and then he went out to the field and worked them out," Gruden said. "That's the area where I saw the most progress.
"He told me he was going to shorten his stroke, widen his base a little bit, try to eliminate some wasted motion and I saw the improvements. He's worked at it and has made progress."
You don't like the idea of the 49ers moving around in the draft to select Tebow as the guy they groom while giving Alex Smith his last final chance? Gruden does.
Who's instinct should we trust? Fans' instincts or Gruden's instinct? Hmmm?
Tony Dungy won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colt with Peyton Manning at quarterback.
"As a coach, I always like winners," Dungy said. "Tim Tebow doesn't have the classic throwing motion, he doesn't have the accuracy, maybe, right now that some people are looking for, but I think when he gets into a pro system that really stresses throwing the ball accurately, the big thing is he makes the people around him better. And he's won. ... I think he's going to be a great player in the NFL."
Dungy said (wait for it) that if he ran a club with a top-10 pick he'd take Tebow. In fact, he said he'd take Tebow over Bradford, Clausen, or McCoy.
Dungy's evaluation came before Tebow starting fixing his throwing motion and his footwork.
Watch Tebow, if you can still keep an open mind about him, with Gruden. The kid seems too good to be true, then you find yourself watching Gruden fall in love with Tebow.
The 49ers likely aren't going to pick Clausen at No. 17. They already have $13 million invested in Smith and David Carr. It's hard to imagine head coach Mike Singletary signing off on a first-round quarterback pick just months after he committed to Smith as his No. 1 guy.
Just imagine the potential for chaos in 49ers camp with Smith already looking over his shoulder at another former No. 1 overall pick in Carr—with Notre Dame's Clausen throwing the ball all over the field, with accuracy and zip, in practice and exhibition games.
Clausen doesn't give the impression he can play the role of the understated rookie willing to, no, happy to wait his turn and learn behind Smith and Carr. Tebow says he's more than happy to go undrafted, sign with a team as a free agent and go to camp, bust his tail and make every team that passed him by regret the decision.
The 49ers shouldn't use the No. 13 or 17 pick in the first round for Tebow, but they have the draft picks available to maneuver to a position in the second round to get Tebow. The 49ers aren't a quarterback like Clausen away from winning it all, so take the cornerback and the offensive tackle they need—they work those phones to get in position to grab Tebow.
Tebow is the finest leader among the quarterbacks—but, the 49ers need a leader of the future who is willing to follow right now.
No better time for Tebow to follow than while he's refining the skills he needs for the NFL. And, if the 49ers are going to pick a quarterback...why not pick the one quarterback in the draft who can come in on certain packages and be a game-changer creating plays with his arm, strength, and speed?
And, does anyone doubt that Singletary would not love to coach Tebow? They are both devout Christians who live their faith openly, happily and every single waking moment. Singletary began his tenure as the 49ers head coach saying he's looking for players who will "smash you in the mouth." My gosh, imagine if he had a quarterback who'd do that?
If Singletary remains convinced that the ground-it-out run game must play as big a role as the spread passing offense, he must be interested in the idea of having a quarterback who can run between the tackles now and comes from a spread offense that won and won and won.
Tebow told Gruden that he isn't concerned about earning the respect of NFL veterans.
"It starts from the first day you report," he said. "I'm going to be the first one at the facility working and I'm going to be the last one to leave. I'm going to show my teammates that I care about them and the team..."
Oh, when Gruden asked Tebow to explain how some of his mistakes happened -- Tebow took full responsibility. When he got blindsided and fumbled, he could've said, "Well, the pass protection wasn't great and I didn't get rid of the ball." Instead, he said, "I had that big loop in my throwing motion and, right there, I had the ball too far back and too far down and I just it hanging there for the defender."
The hunch is that NFL scouts did the worst thing they could possibly do when they told Tebow that there were things he simply could not do in the NFL at quarterback. Now, he's hell bent on proving them wrong and will work until he drops to learn the things he needs to learn.
He's also probably simmering at the snarky media types who love to poke at his faith his All-American Boy image. Although, hating a guy because he has incredible faith and seems to be too perfect actually brings the motives of the snarky media types into question.
Tebow will prove them wrong while proving that the team who drafts him made a very wise decision by ignoring Mel Kiper Jr. and the rest and listening to men who've coached and won like Dungy and Gruden.
That team should be the 49ers.
Ted Sillanpaa is a San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area sports writer and and columnist. Contact Ted at firstname.lastname@example.org