Josh McCown: 5 Predictions for His San Francisco 49ers Tenure

Vincent Frank@VincentFrankNFLCorrespondent IAugust 21, 2011

Josh McCown: 5 Predictions for His San Francisco 49ers Tenure

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    Usually when NFL teams bring in a third string quarterback it doesn't get a lot of press, even locally. But when the San Francisco 49ers were entertaining the idea of signing former All-Pro Daunte Culpepper, there was much scrutiny in regards to it. 

    Culpepper ended up working out with the 49ers, but nothing came of it. A couple days later the 49ers unexpectedly signed another journeyman quarterback, Josh McCown, who has played for four different teams in an eight year NFL career. 

    In 2004 McCown had a rather solid showing for the Arizona Cardinals. He started 13 games, won six of them, threw for over 2,500 yards, and had 11 touchdown passes. The next year McCown split time with Kurt Warner and went 3-3 in six starts.

    After a quick stint with the Detroit Lions, McCown got another chance to start; this time with the 49ers cross bay rivals, the Oakland Raiders. His tenure there didn't turn out too well: McCown only won two of nine starts and had a quarterback rating under 70. 

    Needless to say, McCown hasn't been anything spectacular as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He has thrown five more interceptions (40) than touchdowns (35) and was out of the NFL in 2010, playing in the United Football League. 

    Normally the signing of a third string quarterback can be considered inconsequential, but with McCown it may be a little different. The 49ers have an under-performing Alex Smith starting and the inexperienced Colin Kaepernick as the primary backup.

    Today I am going to look at five possibilities for McCown's tenure with the San Francisco 49ers 

5. McCown's Career with the San Francisco 49ers May Be Short Lived.

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    Right now there is a possibility that the 49ers look at the trade market to acquire another quarterback, which would leave McCown back on the street. 

    The San Francisco 49ers were linked to Tim Tebow prior to the 2010 draft but decided to pass on the Heisman Trophy Winner. Tebow, now in his second NFL season, has fallen out of favor in Denver and may be on the trading block. 

    Other possible options on the market include: Kyle Orton, Josh Johnson and Chad Henne. If the 49ers decide that Colin Kaepernick isn't ready to play in the NFL and continue to question the ability of Alex Smith, there is a strong possibility they look to bring someone in to bridge the gap between the two. 

    McCown was brought in solely to be the 49ers No. 3 quarterback, so they are not expecting him to play much, if at all, in 2011. 

    The possibility of bringing in a more "talented" quarterback is still there for the 49ers right now, but it seems that they are intent in going with Alex Smith as the starter with Kaepernick and McCown backing him up. 

4. Josh McCown Could Take over for Kaepernick as 49ers Primary Back-Up

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    I have been really happy with the progression of Colin Kaepernick during his first training camp in the NFL. He looked decent against the New Orleans Saints in the opener and improved against the Oakland Raiders this weekend. 

    That said, Kaepernick is still incredibly raw and the 49ers do not want to rush the ultra-talented signal caller. They made that mistake with Alex Smith in 2005 and it didn't turn out too well:

    50% Completion, 875 yards, 1 TD, 11 INT and a rating of 40.8.

    Normally teams give their young quarterbacks a year to learn the system and get acquainted to the nuances of the NFL. The 49ers may have to follow this same road with Kaepernick in 2011. 

    We have seen rookie signal callers impress a great deal over the last couple of seasons: Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford come to mind. However, all of the players, with an exception of Flacco, played in pro-style offenses in college. Kaepernick ran the "pistol" at Nevada and was playing against lower level competition. 

    While I do believe that Kaepernick will end up being the best quarterback of the 2011 draft class, he isn't ready to take over as the team's starting quarterback if Smith struggles or gets injured. 

    Enter into the equation Josh McCown, who has starting experience and has had limited success in the past. He has also ran a variation of the west coast offense in the past—something Harbaugh was looking at when he decided to engage the watered-down free agent quarterback class.

    It isn't out of the realm of possibility that McCown could end up starting a couple games for the 49ers in 2011 if Alex Smith is ineffective or goes down to injury.

3. Josh McCown Pulls a Jeff Garcia and Resurrects His Career.

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    It is a great story when a journeymen quarterback surprises the masses and plays like he has never played before. This is not a common occurrence, but it does happen from time to time. 

    Jeff Garcia, who starred at San Jose State during the early 1990s, signed with the Calgary Stampeders as an undrafted free agent in 1994. In fact, he was the primary backup to Doug Flutie in his rookie season. The scrappy quarterback ended up playing in four Canadian Football League Pro Bowls before joining the San Francisco 49ers prior to the 1999 season, and the rest is pretty much history. 

    In five seasons with the 49ers, Garcia was elected to the Pro Bowl three times, threw 123 touchdown passes and led the 49ers to their last playoff victory against the New York Giants in 2002. Garcia capped off an unsuspecting career with a Pro Bowl appearance as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Keep in mind that Garcia was 30 years-old before making his initial start in the NFL. 

    At 32, McCown is a little bit older but has had previous NFL success. As mentioned earlier, he has thrown for double digit touchdown passes three different times and was good enough to be named a starting quarterback a few different times in his career.

    That said McCown has also been beat out in training camp battles by the likes of Jeff Blake and Jon Kitna.

    To be clear, I am not comparing Josh McCown to Jeff Garcia or anyone for that matter. I am simply saying that there is a track record of journeymen NFL quarterbacks finding the right situation and excelling beyond all prior expectations.  

2. Josh McCown Takes over for the Ineffective Alex Smith

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    San Francisco 49ers fans are by now well-versed in the career of Alex Smith. He hasn't been anything special since being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft. We could talk ad-nauseum about the fact that the 49ers chose Smith over the Super Bowl winning Aaron Rodgers. But that is a conversation that I would rather avoid.

    Alex Smith is getting his seventh and final opportunity to prove his pundits wrong in 2011. He will be the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers come 9/11 against the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park. 

    With the most talented offense he has ever had, Alex Smith doesn't have anymore excuses. It is time for him to "put up or shut up". 

    If Alex Smith proves to be ineffective or gets injured, the reigns at quarterback will be handed over to Colin Kaepernick or Josh McCown; not exactly enticing options at this point. 

    As I mentioned before, Kaepernick is still incredibly raw and needs more seasoning in the NFL before making the jump to be a starting quarterback. An entire off-season with organized team activities and mini-camps would do the talented young signal caller wonders. 

    Why throw him to the wolves? 

    Enter into the equation Josh McCown, who has starting experience in the west coast offense and could be a somewhat reliable stopgap quarterback for the 49ers, if necessary. 

    It all depends on how the season plays out and what happens above him on the depth chart. If Alex Smith proves the skeptics wrong and performs at a higher level you will see him playing. If Smith gets injured but the 49ers are in contention for the playoffs you will probably see Kaepernick come in and attempt to manage the game. 

    In the unlikely scenario that: Smith is ineffective, it all breaks down, the offensive line continues to struggle and the 49ers are out of contention; you will probably see McCown take the majority of the snaps towards the back-end of the season.

    There is no reason to jeopardize the confidence and/or health of Colin Keapernick in a lost season. 

1. McCown Does What He Was Brought in For: To Hold a Clipboard.

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    Make no mistake about it, Josh McCown was brought in to be the third string quarterback. If he starts a game for the San Francisco 49ers it will not be a good sign for the team's playoff chances. 

    In fact, it would be a disaster for the San Francisco 49ers. 

    You name a team that would be comfortable with their third string quarterback seeing extended playing time and I will show you a rock I got from my most recent trip to Mars. 

    They are willing to go into the season with Alex Smith as the starting quarterback and relying on Colin Kaepernick to be the primary backup.

    According the popular online betting site, Bodog, the 49ers are co-favorites with the St. Louis Rams in the NFC West. They have a tremendous amount of play makers on offense and look to challenge for the division crown. 

    This will probably not happen if McCown is on the field in 2011. He would be their last resort and just a veteran holding down the fort in a lost season. 

    The 49ers received a lot of criticism in their courtship of both McCown and Daunte Culpepper.

    But lets view the signing for what it was:

    An inconsequential signing of a scout team quarterback, nothing more.