Colin Kaepernick’s understudy

Who will be the 49ers’ backup quarterback next season? Probably not Blaine Gabbert or Josh Johnson, a couple of free-agent retreads the 49ers should not re-sign. The Niners need to find a quarterback worth developing, a quarterback with a future. I count five quarterbacks who fit that description in the upcoming draft: Tier 1: Marcus Mariota. A dual-threat quarterback who is quicker and faster than Kaepernick. Tier 2: Jameis Winston….

February 27, 2015

Roman on the 49ers’ wide receivers: “There is a good chance you see more of them.”

SANTA CLARA — Greg Roman was interviewed in the 49ers’ auditorium Wednesday afternoon. Here’s a transcript. ROMAN: Afternoon. Had a great practice yesterday. A lot of spirit. Looking for another one today. Got a lot of things going on right now. Our offensive staff, just got to commend them. To a man they do a great job. Very fortunate to work with this group. It’s our fourth year together for…

August 20, 2014

49ers’ backup plan stuck in reverse

This is my Monday column. Trent Baalke has to be swallowing hard this morning. Blaine Gabbert, the quarterback Baalke acquired to back up Colin Kaepernick, has a passer rating of 17.6 through two exhibition games. Trading for Blaine Gabbert was Baalke’s worst decision as an NFL general manager, worse than his decision to draft A.J. Jenkins or to trade for Jon Baldwin or to invest in a red-shirt draft choice…

August 18, 2014

49ers fans boo Blaine Gabbert at open practice in Levi’s Stadium

SANTA CLARA – Here’s what stood out to me during the full-speed portion of team drills at Friday evening’s padded practice in Levi’s Stadium. THE GOOD 1. Michael Crabtree. Participated during all of team drills and caught five passes. Worked harder today than he had during any other open practice this offseason. 2. Colin Kaepernick. Completed 13 of 19 passes. Carlos Hyde knocked down one of the pass attempts –…

August 15, 2014

OTA Notes: Ellington beats Johnson, Patton beats Brock, Brooks beats Kaepernick

SANTA CLARA — Here’s what stood out to me at Wednesday’s mini-camp. THE GOOD 1. Bruce Ellington — The only receiver who caught a deep pass. During one-on-one drills, Ellington ran deep against rookie cornerback Dontae Johnson. McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw a perfect deep pass. Ellington jumped up and caught the ball over Johnson, who is five inches taller than Ellington. 2. Quinton Patton — Was two-for-two against Tramaine Brock during…

June 18, 2014

OTA Notes: Kaepernick misses open receivers, Lloyd impresses Harbaugh and Willis, Johnson beats Johnson for a TD, and more

SANTA CLARA – This is what stood out to me at Tuesday’s OTA. THE GOOD 1. Brandon Lloyd: Best receiver on the field by far, although Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, Stevie Johnson and Quinton Patton weren’t there. Lloyd made the catch of the day. He was running deep toward sideline and Blaine Gabbert threw the ball behind him. Lloyd jumped, twisted, caught the ball and landed both feet…

June 3, 2014

49ers’ QB depth a puzzle for the preseason

This is my Saturday column on the 49ers’ five quarterbacks. SANTA CLARA – Five 49ers quarterbacks. Only three can make the team. Which three will it be? We know Colin Kaepernick will make the team and start unless he breaks his leg or starts missing receivers by 30 yards and sailing passes into the stands. That leaves two spots for four quarterbacks – 24-year-old former first round pick Blaine Gabbert,…

May 17, 2014

49ers sign QB Josh Johnson

The 49ers just announced that they have signed quarterback Josh Johnson.  He was the Bengals’ backup quarterback last season, but they replaced him this offseason by signing Jason Campbell and drafting A.J. McCarron. Do you like the Johnson signing? I do. I think he has the ability to beat out Blaine Gabbert for the 49ers’ No.2 QB job. Johnson turns 28 on Thursday. He went to Oakland Tech with Marshawn…

May 14, 2014

Ron Caragher Q&A

I interviewed San Jose State head coach Ron Caragher over the phone last week. Here is the transcript. Q: Most of the top QBs in the upcoming draft went to non-major-conference colleges. Is that a coincidence, or is college football evolving? CARAGHER: Quarterbacks can come from all different types of colleges. Even a backup like the guy from USC – Matt Cassell – made it with the Patriots. At USD,…

April 28, 2014

Josh Johnson Q&A

I interviewed Bengals’ backup quarterback Josh Johnson over the phone last week. Here is the transcript. Q: What was the best thing you got out of playing at the University of San Diego? JOHNSON: Humbleness, understanding my true passion for football, and it taught a lot about myself. You’re never down and out. Being at a non-scholarship school, society tells you you will never get a chance to do what…

April 28, 2014

McLeod Bethel-Thompson Q&A

I interviewed 49ers’ third-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson over the phone last week. Here is the transcript. Q: Which colleges offered you scholarships when you were coming out of high school? BETHEL-THOMPSON: When I came out of high school, I was convinced I was going to Stanford. I didn’t know the recruiting process very well at all. I committed to Stanford without them committing to me. I went through much of…

April 28, 2014

NFL draft prospects at QB shine spotlight on smaller schools

This is my feature on the allure of quarterbacks who went to non-major-conference colleges. For the past five years, every quarterback who was chosen in the first round of the NFL draft went to a major-conference college. Meaning a college in the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC or ACC. Forget that trend. Draft gurus expect three quarterbacks who went to non-major-conference colleges to get drafted in Round 1 this…

April 25, 2014

Who will replace Alex Smith?

This morning, many of my readers are digging through the Inside the 49ers archives trying to find predictions they made which turned out to be correct and bragging about them. That’s always fun, so I’ve got a new prediction contest for you: Who will be the 49ers’ newest quarterback next season, assuming Trent Baalke trades or releases Alex Smith? Will the 49ers sign a backup, like Josh Johnson? Or will the 49ers…

February 21, 2013

Preseason Week 4 grades

SAN FRANCISCO – Here are my grades for the 49ers 35-3 preseason victory over the San Diego Chargers, who may or may not have shown up to play. Alex Smith: P. Smith gets a “Pass” even though he didn’t pass the ball once. He played five snaps and handed off five times, and he looked good doing it. Smith may be the finest hander-offer this side of the Mississippi. Colin…

August 31, 2012

5 keys vs. the Broncos

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers play the Denver Broncos today in their third preseason game. As you already know, the third preseason game is typically the most serious preseason game, the “dress rehearsal” before the regular season – starters play into the second half and coaches game plan for the opponent. But Jim Harbaugh said this preseason game would be no different than the other Niners preseason games. He doesn’t…

August 26, 2012

Preseason Week 2 grades: The quarterbacks

Each quarterback made one great play against the Texans, but overall the QBs did not play well like they did against the Vikings last week. QUARTERBACKS: C-. Alex Smith made one brilliant play: On the first series of the game he faced third and five. He bought time by rolling to his right, he kept his eyes downfield looking for receivers and he threw an accurate pass as he took…

August 19, 2012

Training camp report: Thursday, the good – Vernon Davis and Josh Johnson

SANTA CLARA – Thursday’s practice was the last 49ers practice open to the media this season. It was a light practice – the players wore shorts and went about half speed. Alex Smith mostly played against the scout-team defense, but when he did face the starters he threw two touchdown passes – one to Kyle Williams in the middle of the end zone – right in front of strong safety…

August 16, 2012

Training camp report: Fan fest, the good — The four QBs stay hot

SAN FRANCISCO – Alex Smith had his best practice of training camp, and the 49ers’ first team-offense beat the first-team defense for a change. Smith completed 9 of 10 passes on a 90-yard drive to end practice. On third and 9 from the defense’s 14-yard line, he connected with a wide open Konrad Reuland for a touchdown Colin Kaepernick threw the best touchdown pass of the day in a red…

August 12, 2012

Preseason Week 1 grades: The quarterbacks

SAN FRANCISCO – Here are my grades for the 49ers quarterbacks, all four of whom played well against the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason opener on Friday night. Quarterbacks: A. Alex Smith played the first series of the game and was perfect, completing three short passes including a screen to Kendall Hunter and a four-yard fade to Brett Swain for a touchdown. Smith did not convert the one third down…

August 11, 2012