Ramifications if Niners took QB at No. 10

Moments after the 49ers’ final game of the season, new team president Jed York gathered the team around to announce Mike Singletary had been hired permanently as 49ers coach.

 

But before he made the announcement, York promised the players – and later made the same bold prediction to the media — that the 49ers would no longer finish the season in December.

Well, I could be a smart aleck and point out the 49ers’ final regular-season game this season will most likely be Jan. 3. But we all know what York meant. He guaranteed the 49ers will be returning to the playoffs in January 2010.

 

That is why I find it difficult to believe the 49ers will draft a quarterback with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft.

 

Matthew Stafford visited the 49ers Monday. Mark Sanchez visited the team last week. Those are the only two quarterbacks worth considering with the No. 10 overall pick, though another projected first-round, Josh Freeman, also received the Santa Clara treatment.

 

I don’t believe either Stafford or Sanchez will be available when it’s the 49ers’ turn to choose at No. 10, but for the sake of argument, let’s just say the 49ers will have an opportunity to draft one of them.

 

The reasons for drafting Stafford or Sanchez are obvious. If the club is convinced either M.S. has a strong chance to be a superstar, the 49ers should make the move for the future of the organization. It could set up the organization for great success throughout the next decade.

 

But the key word is “future.”

 

The reason the 49ers went strong after Kurt Warner in free agency and showed initial interest in Jay Cutler is because both of those players are proven at the NFL level. There would have been no quarterback competition. Warner or Cutler would’ve leapfrogged Shaun Hill and Alex Smith into the No. 1 spot.

 

But if the 49ers draft a quarterback at No. 10 on April 25, I don’t believe the 2009 49ers would benefit. In fact, I could make a strong argument team would be worse this season. I don’t believe a rookie would step in and be better than Hill and/or Smith.

 

And if you select a quarterback that high, and you’re already engaged in a quarterback competition, the team would be obligated to make it a three-man competition. And with three QBs sharing in the struggle, the 49ers would run into a similar problem as a year ago when the person who emerged as the winner did not get all the offseason and training-camp preparation time typical of a QB on a team with an established, no-questions-asked starter.

 

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If the 49ers drafted a quarterback at No. 10, that move would be made for 2010 or 2011 and beyond. General manager Scot McCloughan, who ultimately will make the decision, cannot afford to be building for the future. The 49ers – as promised – must make the playoffs or more changes would be expected. McCloughan has said several times that he knows he is next in line to be held responsible for the team’s failures.

 

McCloughan did not have final say in 2005. But make no mistake, Alex Smith was his draft pick every bit as much as Smith was Mike Nolan’s pick. To select another quarterback that high in the draft when Smith is still on the roster would create a unique situation. Even thought Smith is still on the roster with a reduced contract, it would be admitting failure.

 

It is rare that teams pick quarterbacks so high in the draft after such a short period of time. And it’s even more rare that the same person in charge of personnel is involved in both selections. Usually, decision-makers get one chance to connect on a quarterback.

 

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In the past 25 years, the shortest time any organization has gone between selecting a QB as the No. 1 overall pick and drafting another QB in the first round is seven years. It’s happened twice:

–The Falcons took Michael Vick No. 1 in 2001, and then drafted Matt Ryan No. 3 in 2008. Vick was not on the team when Ryan was chosen.

–The Bucs took Vinny Testaverde No. 1 in 1987, and then drafted Trent Dilfer No. 6 overall in 1994. Testaverde was not on the roster when Dilfer was chosen.

 

In the past 25 years, only once has a team selected QBs with top-10 picks with fewer than seven years separating them:

–The Bengals in 1999 selected Akili Smith No. 3 overall. They drafted Carson Palmer with the No. 1 overall pick just four years later (2003). Smith was not on the roster when Palmer was chosen.

 

Only once as a team used two first-round picks on QBs fewer than four years apart:

–The Seahawks in 1991 selected QB Dan McGuire with the No. 16 overall pick. Two years later, they chose Rick Mirer with the No. 2 selection (1993).

 

The common thread through all of the above examples is that it was not the same people making those decisions. A new regime has no problem declaring a mistake has been made by the previous administration. Although Nolan is no longer around, that still would not be the case here. McCloughan has remained unwavering in his support of Alex Smith. But his actions would suggest otherwise if the 49ers were to choose another QB with a top-10 investment.

 

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Lastly, Singletary just does not strike me as a rebuilding kind of guy. The 49ers have a lot of veterans on the team, and I just don’t see Singletary agreeing to take a step back and going through the growing pains of trying to get a rookie quarterback up to speed.

 

Sure, it worked with the Falcons and Ravens last season. But – let’s face it – those were two unique situations. Expectations were low for the Falcons, and the person who would’ve been their starter was in locked up on federal dog-fighting charges. The Ravens did not plan to have Flacco as their starter, but after a rash of injuries, they had no other choice.

 

And as much as we remember the successes of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, we should remember that Ryan tossed 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while Flacco had 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. They did just fine, leading their teams to the playoffs, but they didn’t exactly put up splendid numbers.

 

There are a lot of opinions that Sanchez could be a special talent. If the 49ers’ decision-makers are in agreement, then he would be difficult to pass up. But if the 49ers make that call, don’t expect the No. 10 overall pick to provide immediate dividends and lead the team to the playoffs.

 

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Bottom line: If the 49ers are convinced either Stafford or Sanchez, if available, is the best player on the board, they should take him – especially if they do not believe Hill or Smith is the answer. But don’t expect the team to benefit from improved QB play in 2009 with a rookie. If either QB is there at No. 10, the 49ers should have plenty of options to trade back and pick up another selection or two along the way.

 

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