I interviewed quarterback guru Terry Shea over the phone last week. Here is a transcript of that interview.
Q: Are there ways that a non-major-conference college like San Jose State can aid or accelerate a quarterback’s development in ways a major-conference college like USC can’t?
SHEA: Those smaller colleges have to find a scheme that will allow them to have some success. Those kinds of schools sometimes they’ll be a little bit more creative with their passing attack, and the one who benefits from that is the quarterback. I think you see that down at Fresno State all the time. Look at what Derek Carr has done, how many times a game they threw the football, as did San Jose State.
For the position that we’re referring to, it all comes down to repetitions in practice and in games. It can only benefit a quarterback to get more reps at a younger age. And a quarterback has a greater chance to play early at some of the smaller schools we’re talking about, which consequently lends itself to more skill development at a younger age.
And also the exposure these guys are getting. I can remember when I was back at San Jose State with Jeff Garcia. We were on television maybe twice during the year. Now, a team like San Jose State is on television as many times as you need to be. I think their exposure is very positive as well.
Q: So if you’re at any college and you’re throwing a lot and putting up big numbers, you’re going to get exposure these days?
SHEA: There is no question you will, yes. It’s because of the obvious format of television in terms of how many games of football you’re seeing on TV any night of the week. I think that’s a real positive for the quarterbacks who are playing at that level of competition.
Q: What was your first impression of Jeff Garcia?
SHEA: I arrived at San Jose State with just a handful of spring practices left. It was kind of a peculiar situation when they released Claude Gilbert the head coach. I never got a chance to see Jeff during the spring. But in the fall, I opened up the competition. I had two senior quarterbacks at the time. The competition went for about two weeks and I waited as long as I could to make a decision. Jeff really came out of nowhere. He almost turned the table on me. I decided, “This is my first year as a head coach, I’m going to go with the senior, and Jeff has a red-shirt year so I can red-shirt him.” But he made it very, very difficult on me. And I didn’t think that would be a tough decision. He demonstrated skill at a very young age. He just had that intuitive style about himself, like he had eyes in the back of his head. He was uncanny when it came to escaping the pocket and extending plays and keeping the down and distance in your favor. I was the play caller at the time, and I appreciated Jeff more than any quarterback I’ve had over my years because he was so great to call a game with. You could make any call on your game plan and he would find a way to make it work, particularly on third down. He just kept drives alive. He was very special from that standpoint.
Q: Did you talk about him much with Bill Walsh?
SHEA: I did. I got to Stanford as the San Jose State opportunity ended for me. Jeff actually played against Stanford for two years while I was with Bill Walsh. He was able to keep San Jose State in the game just on his quarterback skills alone. And then when the season ended and Jeff had no place to go, Jeff gave me a call and I just sensed that things weren’t going very well for him at the time. He felt like he was on an island for whatever reason. So I reached out to Bill Walsh and he said, “Why don’t you bring Jeff up to Stanford.” So I did, and we visited for a day. I think Bill really went to bat for Jeff, trying to get him placed somewhere.
I know when Bill Walsh came back to the 49ers – Bill confided in me on this – Mariucci was the coach at the time and Bill was in the front office, and he brought Jeff in from Canada. The existing staff was not really a big Jeff Garcia support group. Bill Walsh is the one who said, “We’re keeping this guy. We’ve got to continue to allow this guy to show us what he can do.” I think Bill really stood up for him at that point.
Q: How familiar are you with David Fales?
SHEA: I trained him last summer for a week before his senior season, I was with him for about 10 weeks in January and February and I directed his Pro Day. I got to know David very well over that length of time. I followed him. We communicated during the season. David got caught in a coaching change that was tough. I think that really disrupted his momentum because he had a great junior year, and his senior year he still put up great numbers, but he didn’t have quite the senior season that they had probably counted on coming off his junior season. Every one of these quarterbacks has a story to tell when they approach the NFL at the Combine, at the Senior Bowl. He goes through a high-volume of interviews. I said, “That’s got to be part of your story, David. The fact that you played under two different offensive systems, you were able to absorb it, master it and you were able to win some big games as a senior.” Not many quarterbacks get to do what Joe Montana had the chance to do, and that is play in one system for all 12 years of his career.