The Skelton signing is a huge development for the 49ers and here’s why

Here is my Thursday column about the 49ers’ signing of John Skelton.

SANTA CLARA – You think you know Jim Harbaugh, and then he goes and signs John Skelton as a backup quarterback.

Signing Skelton is a defining move of the Harbaugh Era. Not because Skelton is good. He isn’t. He represents a dramatic shift in the 49ers’ offensive philosophy.

Skelton does not fit into the offense the 49ers have run since Colin Kaepernick became the starting quarterback last season. Skelton can’t run the read-option. He can’t run, period. He’s what scouts and coaches call “an iron deer on the lawn.” He does not leave the pocket and when the pass rush closes in, he goes down. He is the least athletic quarterback of the Harbaugh Era.

“There are different levels of athleticism,” said Harbaugh, “but anybody who plays quarterback in the National Football League is a pretty darn good athlete.”

So, athletically, Skelton is at the “anybody” level.

Later, Skelton said in the locker room, “I’m fairly confident I’m not going to do the stuff Kap can do.” The understatement of the season.

“Are you going to do more of the stuff Alex Smith did last year?” one reporter asked Skelton.

“Yeah, probably more like that,” Skelton replied, and then he reconsidered. “Even him, he’s probably more mobile than I am.”

Skelton is honest. He also has a strong arm and he’s tall – “good stature in the pocket,” that’s how Harbaugh described Skelton Wednesday afternoon.

Since when does Harbaugh care about stature in the pocket?

For two years he has been focusing on perimeter offense and the read-option, two things which do not require stature.

The 49ers acquired two shrimp quarterbacks this offseason, Colt McCoy in free agency and B.J. Daniels in the draft. Forget stature in the pocket, those two are peanuts in the pocket. But the 49ers wanted them because they can run.

Clearly, running recently plummeted down the list of things Harbaugh values in a quarterback and stature skyrocketed. And since stature is so important all of a sudden, McCoy and Daniels no longer can play in the style of offense the 49ers are going to run. That’s why the 49ers cut B.J. Daniels Tuesday morning. The Seahawks, who still value mobility in their quarterbacks, signed Daniels about 24 hours later.

McCoy is still on the team but clearly has no future with the 49ers. Skelton probably will become the primary backup as soon as he learns the playbook.

What does all this mean? It means a lot. Harbaugh has changed his philosophy and priorities, nothing less.

It’s a risk-reward thing.

There has been no reward this season running the read-option or the Pistol formation. The 49ers practiced those all offseason, clearly intending to base their offense around the threat of Kaepernick running. That would open up everything else, in theory.

But it hasn’t worked out that way. Opposing defenses are all over the Pistol and the read-option. Practically every running play the 49ers have tried from the Pistol this season has gotten destroyed. Their running game works only when Kaepernick is under center. Frank Gore thrives when Kaepernick is under center.

The bigger issue is risk. Defenses are waiting to take shots at Kaepernick if he runs. The Packers took a shot at Kaepernick Week 1. The 49ers took a shot at Russell Wilson, a running quarterback, Week 2. That’s how you defend dual-threat quarterbacks – knock them out of the game.

Look what happened to Robert Griffin III and the Redskins. Last season, their entire offense revolved around the Pistol and the read-option and Griffin running. What happened? He got hurt.

This season he hardly runs anymore. He looks like damaged goods. It’s a shame.

And the Redskins are horrible. And Mike Shanahan looks like an irresponsible coach who ruined his franchise quarterback.

The 49ers don’t want to be the Redskins. Harbaugh doesn’t want to be Shanahan.

If you have a franchise quarterback, and Kaepernick is a franchise quarterback, you can’t expose him each week to the kind of hits defensive ends and linebackers mete out. If Harbaugh does nothing else, he must protect the franchise quarterback.

Harbaugh understands all of this and after two bad early-season losses, he’s had an epiphany.

Forget everything that happened last season. The Pistol and the read-option won’t work as a base offense. Conventional offense is back. The 49ers now want their quarterbacks operating under center, handing the ball off to Frank Gore or standing in the pocket and throwing downfield to Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. That’s what Kaepernick did last week against the Rams.

Call it Harbaugh Theory 2.0. That’s why he got John Skelton.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at

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  1. Which means he’ll be looking for another “stature in the pocket” quarterback to draft 2014…..Jeff Mathews might be worth a look.

      1. What about Tyler Wilson from Utah? I think he is actually only a sophomore but he is 6’7 and very mobile but is still more of a pocket passer. I guess since he is only a sophomore he wont be coming out but someone to keep your eye on. Hey Grant, I think Utah plays UCLA tonight.

  2. Grant ,
    If your thesis is correct, then all of the moves made by Harbaugh and crew, the drafting of small running backs, small receivers and the trading of the QB who is experienced in this” new ” old system was for not!
    Wow, can hardly wait for the screaming from fellow bloggers!!!

    1. Hacksaw,

      I’m sorry, I don’t mean to offend or be a know it all, but it’s not “for not”, but rather, “for naught”. Naught, as in nothing.

    2. Yeah! good insight. I think its clear that the focused on the readotion all off season and are making a return to the power run game. last 3 games have seen increased plays from jumbo sets, and kaep under center (seems that way anyway, certainly more success in formations) That beatdown we took in Seattle followed by the dropped-soap-pounding by the Colts, made them have to reconsider everything. The bunch formation has also been a favorite in recent games to allow the WRs to get a few steps off the line before some CB is ready to cover them like white-on-rice. I really think the changes are going to make a difference by the end of the season, but its clear we were NOT prepared to be calling those plays during trainingcamp. I think these developments make resigning Iupati even more important.

  3. Agree Grant, and generally everyone seems to be realizing the same thing.

    The team unnecessarily went all in on the pistol and like I said before…if they wanted to do that then they should’ve brought in Chris Ault as a consultant to help adapt their approach with using it. Why not, who would know better on how to use it than he?

    Frankly, I think arrogance is the reason why they didn’t bring him in.

    The Pistol wasn’t all about the read option and it was quite successful down the stretch last year when Gore saw what lanes opened up.

    For now though, I totally agree that mostly going back to traditional personnel groupings is what was needed to get our run game going because defenses have adapted. It would take someone who truly understands all the ins and outs of the Pistol (a la Chris Ault) to adapt when certain things are figured out.

  4. Interesting article.

    If accurate, I think it shows an admirable flexibility by Harbaugh. Hes realised the read-option isn’t working, and reacted quickly to fix things. Running game/play action is the way to go.

    It brings out the best in Gore, it protects Kap long term and it allows a short range play action passing game, which PFF has shown suits Kap and our limited WR corps, Boldin aside.

    What we need now is a smash-down-the-middle RB, to augment Gore and Hunter.

  5. Grant, I see your point but clearly we need a better pocket passer then Skelton as a back up, someone that can run occasionally too.

  6. Truth is, Harbs was out of his element trying to incorporate the read-option into his established system. Now he’s simply going back to the same system Kap learned under his rookie year. I think this transition will be fairly quick and (somewhat) painless for both guys.

  7. This is, in my opinion, the most insightful article you’ve written, Grant. Nice job! I think it could well be what’s happening.

    There is, however, one thing you should have given more weight to, and that is that the 49ers may feel that Colt McCoy has been so bad that they felt they had to risk losing BJ Daniels so as to buy time for Skelton to learn the offense. Daniels could not have served as the backup in the short-term if they had cut McCoy, because not only is he a rookie, but he has done barely any work on actual plays the Niners run, spending close to all his time on the field running the scout team offense. By not being a reasonable alternative to McCoy as the short-term primary backup, the Niners may well have felt that taking the risk of losing Daniels was something they had to do till Skelton was ready, more because of how bad McCoy (maybe) has been and not because they no longer believe in the value of the Pistol.

  8. Very good assessment Grant.
    I brought up the concern and obligation that Harbaugh has in protecting his QB by limiting the Read-Option and Pistol earlier this week. But I was really only echoing Harbaugh’ contention with the league in allowing defenses to tee-off on CK in the Pistol and Read-Option sets.

    I see no issue with Harbaugh/Roman making the adjustments for the offense, my concern is whether our O-line can make the adjustments needed in pass protection since we are more suited to run.

  9. lol this is such bs, remind me again, why did we get rid of alex then? seems like he’s the perfect player for this “new philosophy”. boggles my mind to be honest. and the moment you take that running wild thing from kaepernick, not sure exactly what are you left with? Inconcsistent, kidna imature guy with a little weirdo vibe to him, rocket arm with so/so accuracy. questionable smarts,… i just donno, still very much open on the whole “franchise quarterback” tag. time will tell. for now, everything the niners did since Alex’s concussion looks in hindsight like impulse shopper moves.

      1. 23J is right – We should all back off the Alex bashing. Alex was a 49er for 8 years and he accomplished……well, he was a 49er……he had a good game.
        Nobody can ever take that away from Alex…..EVER!!

      2. Michael Bay Area Fanatic,
        You like to bash anyone who mentions Alex Smith, who was the Niner QB for 8 years, for better or worse. He had a crappy situation and made the best of it. His play with Andy Reid shows it wasn’t just Harbaugh, but coaching.
        You probably don’t have any mirrors in your house probably because you know you’re ugly, and don’t want to be reminded that you’re the troll. Fans of the Niners support the team regardless.
        You’re such a fantasy stat guy, Alex has a higher rating in all categories that matter, and his team has a better record and he’s on a lessor team.

        How can you even think that Colin is playing better? It doesn’t meant Alex is a better QB. Colin has all the skills to be the better QB, but right now he is not living up to his potential. Stop making excuses for him. What does it tell you that the Niners need to simplify the offense for a 3rd year player? On a superbowl contending team?

        It says he’s struggling. One decent win against may right the ship, but he has to keep it up.

      1. Harbaugh had to let Alex go because he was not his guy no matter how much he acts like he was caddying for him and what not.
        While Alex was an elite QB, he was winning and playing at a high level before he got injured.
        Harbaugh saw an opportunity to jump ship and took it when Colin showed flashes of brillance.
        It’s clear he’s still learning the position and has a ways to go.
        Smart coaches know how to push CK to his weak spots, now it’s up to Harbaugh and Groman to come up with ways to get Colin into his comfort zone.

      2. As a whole, Alex has outplayed Colin. It doesn’t mean Alex has played great, he does just enough to win.
        It shows how far Colin has to go. Last year he caught everyone by surprise. This year it’s definitely tougher for Colin.

      3. Come on, Alex 3 loser teams and so so Cowboys. Kaeper’s 3 playoff teams and a #1 ranked division rival….
        Come on….

      4. The Alex Smith lover like Alexfan2005 and the Fake Real Estate Attorney/ blog stalker Prime Time don’t realize that it’s not about winning regular season games for Jim Harbaugh. Its about winning super bowls. Apex Smiths ceiling will not allow him to beat elite teams. Yeah, he’s 4-0 but look at the
        competition. Watch when he plays a real football team. Like one that has super bowl aspirations. 49ers are about super bowls, not regular season wins over mediocre competition. Kaps floor will always be Smiths ceiling. Cossell said it best. Not one GM in the league would take Alex Smith over Kap. That includes Kansas City. Remember, super bowls not wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars!

      5. 23welcher, you first have to win regular season games before you can win superbowls. As for Cossell, you act like his word means what other NFL GM’s actual think. Once again you have everything ass backwards.

      6. FDM

        You’re too dumb to comprehend what I’m saying. Why would you even respond. Kap is capable of winning regular season games, playoff games and super bowls. Your boytoy Apex Smith can’t win a Super Bowl. What
        An reaches their prime in their 7th
        season? He will Never win a super bowl. Playoff wins: Smith 1. Kap. 2.

      7. Jordan,
        don’t fall for it brother. Notafanofthe49ers77 has his head up his arse if he believes A Smith has outplayed Kaep. Or should I say continues to have his head up his arse.
        Look Smith isn’t terrible anymore. He’s above average and serviceable. In essence they’ve replicated the situation that Alex had here in 2011. Great running game, lights out defense. Record number of turnovers. Their offensive coordinator Peterson is calling better games then Roman and Peterson is a rookie. The benefit is that he played the QB position.
        All Alex has to do is not lose games for them. He still dinks and dunks, protects the ball and manages games. He actually looks decent doing what he does.

      8. Jordan,
        Kaep has two playoffs wins with no defense in 12 starts. Smith on the other hand had one playoff win in 8 seasons. And in his one win, his defense handed him five turnovers and yet he still found his team behind in points with less than two minutes to go.

        Does Kaep need to learn to slow things down and go through progressions? Yes. Will we as fans have to wait 7 years like we did with Smith to see that happen? Hell no. By next year, you will get a much more refined QB in Kaep. The benefit is that he has a beast mode that only one or two QB’s in the entire league have. He’ll be fun to watch for years.

      9. Bay

        You’ve never had to tell me anything about Smith. I’ve always known what he was. Amazingly, his fan club won’t head over to the Chiefs blog instead of loitering over here. At least DS and Hofer left. But FDM, Prime the fake
        attorney, Alexfan2005, these guys are like cockroaches here. Infesting the blog with sympathy for smith. For the 1000th time, he’s gone like I always said he needed to be. Good riddance and thanks for the #2 and #3 picks!

      10. 45 Charlotte Bobcat Owner,

        I didn’t say that Alex with better or is even elite. Just that the stats and the record shows that his team is winning. And before you bring up the record of the teams he’s played against, the Chiefs were the worst team in the league last year and the Niners went to the SB and lost.
        Everyone loves to bash Alex and give Colin a free pass. But now he’s the starter on a SB contending team and his play is not up to snuff, not even to the Alex standards, which is not a high bar.
        He better start playing better because the team’s window is closing for this current group. This team is expected to win now. The loss to the Colts, at home, is all you need to look at, against a mediocre defense. Colin didn’t even throw for a hundred yards until garbage time. Wake up and stop sniffing Jordan’s old sneakers.

      11. No defense Bay? Really, they held your hero Bradford and his speedy WR’s to nothing and that’s why they won, on the road, plus Frank Gore. Your hypocrisy is a joke.

      12. FDM,
        when is the last time you posted something worth reading? I bash the 49ers defense for giving up tons of points under Kaepernick. Your response is that they shut down the Rams? Really? And I’m a hypocrite? Last seven games we have given up 11, 27, 29, 28, 34, 24, 31. So did we really hold down the Rams or do they just suck? Like I said, when is the last time you posted something worth reading.

      13. 77,
        why are you here? Who are you a fan of? Obviously not the 49ers.
        Lets start with the obvious. This is NOT a superbowl contending team. We lost too many pieces and are now realizing how critical those pieces were.

        Two, there are issues that have nothing to do with the team and everything to do with the coaching staff.
        For starters, we have an OC that lacks expertise in the passing game. So much so that he brought in Johnny Morton to assist in that area. The passing attack looked good with Crabtree and Walker in there. Now that both are gone, Morton has lacked the creativity to get our young receivers involved in the game early. He’s also lacked the creativity to put them in motion and get them off the line where they have struggled.
        Three, the way we have called games has been down right irresponsible and amateurish at best. There have been a handful of games in which we were out coached. Last year the Vikings game and both the Rams games come to mind. This year, against the Colts as well. Actually, this year it wasn’t what the Colts did, so much as what we forgot to do. Run the ball. Roman lost the game period.

        At some point it becomes fair to rip the QB. A real fan of the team determines on his own when that time is appropriate. To me a converted running QB that is in his 14 start on a team that has as many question marks and foundational issues and injuries, deserves a break. He deserves to be given support and some patience. Unfortunately we have a shrinking gang of misfits that will continue to rip CK prematurely as their own way to seek revenge for their fallen hero who took 7 years to become average and 8 year to become just above average.
        Are we really a superbowl ready team?

      14. BA Fanatic,
        I’m a fan of the same team you are. If you ignore the number on the jersey and just look at the stats and play of the current QB under center, you would not approve. You would be furious if that QB was Alex Smith.

        As a fan I want Colin to play better. Who doesn’t?

        I also need to check out on some real estate deals. I’m going to chat with my man PrimeTime and buy that cave you live in. We’ll pay top dollar!

      15. Bay area says “To me a converted running QB that is in his 14 start on a team that has as many question marks and foundational issues and injuries, deserves a break. He deserves to be given support and some patience’

        Last year he was the golden child, perfect QB, now suddenly, excuses and begging for patience. Wow how the winds of burnt crap fill the air.

      16. FDM ^ FanSince77

        Alex Smith plays on a team loaded with talent in the running game and on defense. Sound familiar?

        Kansas City, which last year coped with a player who committed suicide in front of his HC, placed 6 players in the 2013 Pro Bowl.

      17. FDM,
        know what you and your dwindling group have in common? You are not fans of this team. I think at this point you and your miserable group come here out of habit.
        I point out that the defense has been terrible giving up tons of points and you use the RAMS game as an example? Dude get with reality.
        Smith had one decent year in 2011. Average actually. Two above average games stand out. The Cardinals game and Saints game. Thank god for his record breaking defense, record breaking kicking game and record number of NFL leading turnovers that year. Tell me this FDM, did Smith deal with injuries that year? Did he lose multiple playmakers? The playmakers we have on the team currently resemble what Smith had in 2005 – 2009.
        Just the fact that you refer to CK as the golden child proves you are a dbag and not a fan. You’ve done all my work for me bud. And you’ve proven that I was always right about you. Thanks!

      18. The argument of talent is a mute point. The eagles arguably had one of the most talented rosters in football and managed to win only 7 games.
        Injuries are key to any team’s success. Avoid them, you’re in the super bowl. Have them and your picking low in the first round. That’s the story of the NFL no matter who the QB is and what talent is around them.

      19. Lameareafanatic save the blog the stench of your ignorance and either quit or just admit Alex Smith is a good QB. Otherwise your pie hole is gettin full of your foot douche bag!

      20. Sorry Prime, or is it Axel Foley? You here to welch on more bets? You making fun of cancer patients today? Here to talk about your blue eyed man crush Alex Smith? Or are you here like the rest of the real fans to talk about and support our team the 49ers.

      21. Lame, here to talk football and point out the idiots. Really just you and 23 can’t spell.
        Did you buy a world globe yet? Did you see how there is no water between Canada and USA? Hence not overseas. Dumb azz!

      22. So,
        Primeslime I asked if you were here like other 49er fans to support it’s players and the team. Your response, “I am here to talk football”.
        Your agenda has been clear since you slithered into the room….

      23. Bay dont turn west you will end up in the Pacific oceon. Head North, you will find Canada.
        You stick to baseball because your idea of talking football is a fantasy that involves trashing #11 on another team. You’d think it was done after the trade and you would have moved on but for some strange reason you still have an infatuation. What’s the matter, did he not sign your sons jersey or something?

      24. Prime,
        I’ve been to Canada several times. Awesome country. Cities filled with pockets of cultures from around the world. Good people too. You must be the only douche that lives there.
        As for why you are here again? You took offense to anyone that ripped Alex Smith the last two years. You became a so called advocate for sticking up for the Niners QB. You called out anyone who said anything negative about the Niners QB. So why are you now that guy? The guy that is always less than positive about THE NINERS QB?
        Answer…. Cause you are not a real fan. That’s why you keep changing the subject mr. dual poster, bet welcher.

      25. Alex Smith plays on a team loaded with talent in the running game and on defense.

        True for the D, but Chiefs running game is no where near consistent. And their OL is notches below the Niners’. Factor in the fact it’s only 4 games into Reid’s system, Alex Smith should get some credits.
        Stats comparison of Kaep and Smith is pointless right now. Both could improve even more when things settle down.

      26. Bay why did you say Canada was overseas then?

        Lets end this now so I don’t have to listen any more to your static. I don’t have any issue with CK. He’s gonna be the 49ers QB a long time and I actually think his game is gonna be phenomenal. My problem is guys like you put him in this upper echelon of QB’s that could do everything better than Alex Smith and more.
        But now the offense is struggling and you are waffling on everything but CK, why?
        It’s always been a team game but when Alex was at the helm, it wasn’t for you, now it suddenly is for CK? Crock!

  10. And therein I believe lies the real reason they let Daniels go. McCoy isn’t the back-up they want right now, but Skelton isn’t yet up to speed, so they need to keep McCoy on the books for now. I’m thinking McCoy will be released in 3-4 weeks time, as soon as Skelton has a good enough handle on the playbook. If Daniels had passed through waivers he probably would have then been elevated to the 53-man roster again once McCoy is released.

    1. well if that is the reason, it’s a damn stupid reason. We aren’t going to win any games with Skelton, NONE ! Would we win any with Daniels, unknown. But how about next year ? and following that. Daniels could have been our number two quarterback and held down the fort if Kap got hurt. Skelton will never be able to, he ‘s just a huge stiff, a football version of Mark Eaton.
      Our personnel decisions the last couple of years have been absolutely incomprehensible and horrific. And the so called explanations from the 49ers just make the whole mess worse, if taken at face value they prove 49er incompetence. We have one of the worst front offices in the entire league ( eg 2012 draft, easily the most incompetent in the league and maybe in drafting history), and front office includes Harbaugh and the entire coaching staff. This bodes poorly not only for this year, but also well into the future. Keep in mind the teams we have beaten have a combined record of 2 and 5. also keep in mind the 49ers went after and made a concerted effort to sign and resign Mc Coy. What does that tell you?

  11. Great article Grant. I have to agree fully here.

    I’ve stated it before, but Alex ran this offense very efficiently with a mediocre at best WR corp. I think once Kaep calms down and become more comfortable he will be very good in this style of offense.

    Hopefully we get everyone back healthy soon and this team can really start to click. We have a very favorable schedule after this game. Thats definately giving us a shot to make some noise this season

  12. I am not buying this article, if Colt McCoy was capable and decent back up QB, BJ would of been still on the team. Harbaugh does not have real confidence on McCoy and I can’t fault him on that, except is was a waste of trade.

    1. Neal i think you hit the nail on the head. This latest move has nothing to do with system or Daniels, it is all to do with Harbaugh having less than 0 confidence in McCoy whether its for a quarter or a number of games. Grant is reading way too much into this move. If it has stripes its probably a zebra.

      1. Old Coach,

        You can take the best of McCoy, and the best of Skelton and we would still not have a capable back up QB, if Kaep goes down, I would want a QB similar to Kaep style, maybe he won’t have the experience or quite the talent, but would not have to dumb down on the play book. With these two scrubs, we would have to take out 80% of the plays and bring down the offense to Jimmy Raye liking with is vanilla ice cream.

      2. Neal that scrub beat Seattle 2 times. Once with Russell Wilson on the field. He’s won the games we can’t seem to win. He’s beaten Schaub also. I think you have to remove the QB from the situation before you evaluate him. Az’s line was terrible and aside from Fitzgerald, I can’t think of a receiver in Az who anyone could throw to.
        If anyone can find some talent there and make it great, I think Harbaugh can, so I’m willing to give this some time to develop.

      3. Matt,

        Don’t think either of these two guys are anything special. David Carr won a few games too, and he is out of the league now.

      4. Neal,

        David Carr ended up being a terrible QB. Have you seen his brother Derek play? He’s having a heck of a season for Fresno State. However, David may have ruined the family name, LOL, and it may hurt his brother’s draft stock.

  13. Grant I don’t know if any of your thoughts are correct, but I commend you for the way you presented them. This is easily one of the best articles you’ve written both from and informative and content stand point and I enjoyed reading it.

    Whether we will see a drastic change in philosophy in the next few weeks I don’t know, but I agree that at some point the realization that your QB is in danger and could cost you a season if injured, does force you to change your outlook and we may be in the midst of seeing that happen right now.

    It’s become blatantly obvious that in order to sustain offensive success, this team needs to run the ball from under center, and the pistol needs to be put back in it’s holster and only brought out once in awhile to provide a changeup.

    As Kaepernick gains experience and confidence, they will be able to throw in more deviations to the scheme, but for right now it’s become apparent that they need to ease off of relying on Kap’s arm and mobility, and help him with the running game.

    1. I agree with you Rocket

      I think the emphasis on Kaep is he has to learn to throw the ball from under center. The receivers open up more when Kaep is under center, and the threat of Gore in the backfield.

      However my question is to you guys is if Gore isnt churning out yards, how will Kaep move the ball? He needs to get better at reading through his progressions, and finding the open receiver.

      Another comment I have is I would love them to send Frank out in the flat when is not needed for blitz pick up. Arian Foster last week had tons of receptions and was always a safety valve for Schaub. Would love us to gain positive yards and stay one the field instead of always looking for chunk plays.

      Move the ball effectively and take your shots when the opportunity is there!

      1. However my question is to you guys is if Gore isnt churning out yards, how will Kaep move the ball?

        He needs to take what the defense gives him. Take the check down, throw it out of bounds or be more decisive when it’s time to tuck it and run. His decision making needs to be sharper. Right now he seems to be confused if the first look is not there. Take the easy outlet and dump it off or take off. If me neither option is available, throw it away. Just simplify things and play football.

      2. Kaep needs to take a step back, do less commercials and side bets with Russell Wilson. Things happened so fast last year. Harbaugh and GRoman are great at trickery and deception. That’s how they “out coach” teams.
        It seems they are not good at straight X’s and O’s. With a full offseason. It was just two off games but they revealed a lot.

      3. sacareafan,

        You’re preaching to the choir with our comment about Kap needing a checkdown option. It was feast or famine on far too many plays against the Colts especially. As strange as it sounds, they need to give him the same type of options they did Alex Smith instead of relying on him to get the chunk yardage so often.

        If Gore isn’t picking up yardage it means we are looking at 8-9 in the box and if that’s the case you start taking your shots until they back off. Either way they need to stick with the Rams plan and build off of it imo.

  14. I wonder why Daniels chose to join the Seahawks. Barrows reported that the 49ers were willing to give him his current roster salary so he wasn’t losing any money going back to the PS (and probably staying there for just a few weeks). They probably told him they were going to see who was a better backup McCoy or Skelton, cut the worse of the two and then resign Daniels. My guess Daniels was either offered more to join the Hawks or he didn’t want to play RB, WR and KR, just QB.

    1. Hope your wrong Grant..just because I dont think Kap can be an effective qb from the pocket..Alex doesnt have the athleticism or arm but seemed to make better decisions and read the field better then Kap..Kap makes all his plays from rolling out or broken plays it seems..

      1. Grimey,

        Yes, especially the two years when he didn’t play (with the exception of two healthy games and several when his shoulder was badly injured, in year three). He really made a bunch of bad reads those two years.

  15. Funny. There is no team in the NFL having my success with the dead option except the K. C. Chiefs. Where is Ault coaching again. Clearly JH was arguing about the rules to protect the QB in the rear option for a reason. It was an essential part of the offense. The pundits and coaches of other NFL teams said it would not last. They were right. That didn’t take very long.
    I’ll say it again. Our 2nd string Qb got cut in favor of Baby Brees in 2012. The QB that JH. Knew better than any other he was capable of getting. The same QB that beat out Skelton the stiff for the backup job in the processing this year for the Bengals. Right now, our personnel people are in flux. They are failing this team. We need to get healthy real fast and find an identity before the season is over for us. That’s on the field and off of it!

    1. The Niners have surprisingly and quickly become a team in flux searching for a new identity and with some fall out along the way.
      Who woulda thunk it a couple a months ago…

    2. I told you a million times, Josh J was never smart enough to conceptualize and execute Greg Romans offense. Get it through your thick skull, JJ does not have the NFL QB brain. Physical tools yes, everything else no.
      Stop repeating your idiotic stubbornness and think. What are you deaf or dumb?

      1. Funny how a guy that begs his way on a football blog can examine the level of intelligence of a professional football player with no evidence to support it. Sounds like the cancer comedian is also a bit racist as well. Yet he has the audacity to call others dumb. Find a mirror little Real Estate Attorney impostor. One that bills $100 an hour in 2013.

      2. Funny how I’m back on the blog. Why cause I know what I’m talking about and I do charge a Benjamin an hour. Why? Cause I can.
        The thing about JJ was I know a strength and conditioning coach who did some offseason training with him and a couple NFLers and college guys at a camp. The thing he reiterated was JJ was not very intelligent. Now looking at the guy, who is working on his 3rd NFL team since being drafted with all the physical tools, what does that tell you?

      3. I’m going to hate myself for getting in the middle of this but Prime if you are only charging a $100 an hour you must be the most popular lawyer in North America or you work out of the back of a van.

      4. Jordan,
        Make no mistake about it. Pee Time is not a realtor nor an attorney. He’s the resident primate at the local zoo in Vancouver Canada.

      5. Rocket you should stick to your former alias. On average that’s my rate. As you know it depends on the what contract we are negotiating and size of purchase.
        Regardless what does it matter what I do and what I earn?
        The point is directed at some people who cannot handle my dialogue and the validity of what I say is no way in relation to who Indo for a living. It was brought up, I refuted it and now it’s simply jealousy.

      6. Lmao…. After all this time I “think” I just got the meaning of Nick rows name. If I’m right my ghetto pass should be revoked. Lol

      7. Oh Rocket, thanks for getting involved, working out of his van, that is hysterical. Is his law firm called Prime Axel and Randy Associates? hahahah

      8. Prime Time,

        I’ll give you 2 hours( $200.00 to you) to go play on a freeway! I’m sure Grant will pitch in an extra $100. Any other donations for the Fraud Real Estate Attorney, who stalks the author of the 49er football blog for the Press!

        Change your name from prime time to Cheap Rates!! You’re a fraud, a phony, a fugasi! We’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, run amuck! Prime Time is as bitter as a lime.

      9. You save your money to buy your family some groceries! That $200 took you a whole pay cheque to earn, before taxes! Buwhahaaaaaaa!!!!!!!

      10. Guys I just figured it out. Prime Time is really a paralegal that works for a Canadian Slum Lord. Not a Real Estate Attorney. Nice try little guy. If you beg me to take my foot off of your neck I will. You’re pretty good at begging!

        Look up Average you idiot. Your average rate is $100. That means you charge as little as $50 an hour and $150 an hour max! What are you, DENSE! I think you should ban yourself from the blog. Your act is tired!

  16. Good article on the evolving niners. In short the why’s as to the latest evolve:
    1. Fear of injury to the Kaper.
    2. Lack of confidense in backup QB – now a misfit more than ever.
    3. Defenses have overnight adapted to pistol and other Niner read option options.
    4. Less Reciever options right now for passing heavy offense of any sort.
    5. Back to how this offense (personnel) was built — mostly by Nolan/Singletary.
    6. Back to time management and owning turnover ratio for what the defense needs and was also built for.
    7. Back to lunch pail and NFL tried and true. Less quick draw gunslinger. Good for college. Good for occasional surprise in the NFL Fun while it lasted.

    Under center,pocket, and play action will be the primary but I will suggest that the read option will still play its part when the opportunity presents itself if for no other reason than they practiced it.
    Ideally this offense needs to find its way to toggling back and forth. If they can do that effectively then defenses will be left guessing once again. Both pound them and mystify them into submission.

  17. Glad to read your comments. When I first heard the news on Daniels I could not think of a single reason why they would do that….and for John Skelton of all meatballs. He makes a tree look mobile. You have offered an intersting take. One which I did not figure out on my own. I will be curious to see if your insights on the directiion of the offense going forward are accurate but it clearly sounds plausible.

  18. I think the jury is still out on whether or not Kaepernick can be a successful NFL QB if he can’t operate from the pistol – as he did in college. I bit too early to call him a franchise QB, in my opinion.

    1. He can be a franchise QB it’s just that people forgot that with any QB there is a huge learning curve and development process.

      The greatness label after only 10 games came from the fantasy football fans. Why? Because they look at numbers/stats. That’s not how to evaluate the game of football or player.

      1. Prime

        I agree with you about the development time and reps to learn a new system…that goes not only for Skelton, but also for CK who has practiced all off season on the ‘pistol’ and run-option, and now realizes that he’s going to get his butt handed to him every time he looks to run, so he’s now confined to the pocket to pass like every other NFL QB. We used to have one, ‘member?and he didn’t slide.

  19. Let me get this straight, Skelton, who couldn’t beat out Andy Dalton’s backup – one Josh “can’t hit the broadside of the barn” Johnson, is going to be the answer to all our questions about back ups here? You must be joking right? No, something else is going on here. Not sure what it is, but Skelton playing quarterback in a game with the 49ers is not going to happen, I don’t care how well he learns the play book. Harbaugh will go in first.

    Maybe we are playing some teams with tall immobile QB’s in the future and he is going to run the scout team for the defense. Or maybe our young receiver core just needs practice catching badly thrown balls.

  20. I see it differently Grant (as usual :) ). I think MAYBE Baalke and Harbaugh might be considering going with only 2 QB’s after some of the players on the injury lists start returning to the 53 man roster. (there will be quite a few and who do they cut when these players start being added ?)

    JH knew Daniels was not nearly ready to be THE backup and JH doesn’t think all that much of McCoy’s talents either. JH wanted an experienced Backup and he will now wait a few weeks for Skelton to get up to speed and then whichever of the two win the #2 spot will be the only one to stay on the roster as Kap’s backup.

    Next year they can get another developmental QB with all the picks they have. And hopefully not showcase him in the Preseason so other teams don’t grab him,so they can keep him on their PS.

    And I actually hope that JH is tired of making Kap be careful ! I hope he is finally going to let Kap be Kap and let him react and run more often. So far this year Kap has been hesitant and I believe that is because JH has instructed him to be overly careful so he doesn’t get injured.
    As we have seen here over the last several years,a QB who hesitates leaves many plays out there on the field that could have been made if he had reacted more quickly .
    So hoprfully ,JH has decided he is tired of having the restrictions on Kap and will let him just play football,like Kap did last year(I hope this is his reasoning now).
    But with the greater danger of injury with the restrictors off Kap, JH is getting ready with a backup that he thinks he can win with if the worst happens,therefore the move to get Skelton.

  21. First off, I think the Barrows report stating that the Niners were willing to pay Daniels his full salary to be on the practice squad completely nullifies the main thesis of this column. Assuming Barrows is correct, Skelton was coming in to learn the offense and compete with McCoy to be the backup this season with Daniels staying to be groomed as the backup for next year. Not quite the “sea change” in offensive philosophy described in this column.

    Secondly, regarding the Niners’ offensive philosophy in the running game, I would look to the lack of the quick-hitter/wham play against Seattle and then the near total abandonment of the run against the Colts as the major issues. The Niners’ offensive line is way too experienced to not have a full complement of running plays in their gameplan every week. (And considering how effective the quick-hitter/wham play was against the Seahawks last year, it seems incomprehensible that this season’s gameplan would not include this play.) When the Niners do employ their full complement of running plays it definitely impacts how aggressive opposing defenders can be, to the point that the only really effective shotgun run play they have had this season was against the Colts following several great counter plays.

    1. The 49ers can say what they want, but they cut Daniels and it was obvious the Seahawks would pick him up. Carroll has spoken on the record about how much he likes Daniels and how the Seahawks wanted to draft him. 49ers couldn’t realistically think they could cut Daniels and get him back.

      1. The Niners FO was supposedly surprised when Cooper and Gray were picked up so they have not shown a great feel for how much other teams value the bottom of their roster. The main point I was making was that the variety of their run game (or lack of it in the first two games and the second half of the Colts game) is independent of the read-option and having a running quarterback. Its an indictment of Greg Roman and his gameplanning and play calling. Also, its not like Colt McCoy (or Daniels) can’t turn around and hand off to Gore or Hunter out of conventional sets.

        You made a great point in the preseason regarding the lack of talent in the Niner’s skill position players. My response was that until Manningham came back and MacDonald earned Kap’s confidence, that Hunter, thee O-Line, and a varied running game would be crucial to the offense’s effectiveness. The varied running game was not there in the first two weeks, was only used on one drive in the third game, and then (finally) showed up in the fourth game. That was way too long, especially considering how experienced the O-Line is.

      2. I am going to split the difference here.
        The thesis is pretty solid for reasons given and since right now we got nothing else to ride with on the path of logic.
        But I am going to agree with Sacto on the Daniels matter. They thought they could sneak him due to the following:
        A. As Sacto says the money they were willing to pay him demonstrates the effort.
        B. Thought they could pull it off part way into the season when teams are not willing to use a roster spot for a work in progress QB. That is a common trick that generally works if you are a mediocre team off the radar.
        C. This quote from JH in press Q and A:
        HARBAUGH before Hawks eat his lunch:
        Felt like we wanted to have two veteran quarterbacks, two guys who have started games, played in games, won games. Felt like that’s what we needed to do at this time. We’ll be hopeful B.J. will return. I trust that we have a plan for him and a process of developing him and getting him ready to play in the National Football League as well.
        D. History repeating itself — they continue to under estimate other teams interest in their players and especially draft picks this year. See Cooper and Gray.
        E. If they did know about Seattle’s interest in Danielsthen that makes this all the more foolish since not only do they loose (another) rookie QB with promise but give him to the team that can most likely turn him into a Wilson facsimile there of and further still a team that just happens to be the big fat concern in our division right now.
        F. Are you kidding me — there is no way the Jim H that we all have grown to know is going to let Nemesis Pete get the last laugh. Never would he allow PC the opportunity to come back with revenge x two.

        Sorry this is a team in Flux that took a gamble and lost to the most threatening player at the table.

  22. Grant, regardless of your theory being correct or inaccurate, this was your best article so far to my opinion! Great Job and thank you for sharing your perspective.

  23. Bill Walsh always used to say that when the QB struggles and the offense is out of sync shorten everything up. Like the golf swing. “When its breezy swing easy”. This is exactly what Harbaugh is doing. Going back to Alex Smith ball for a few weeks till Crabtree and Maningham get healthy and hopefully Baldwin develops and Kap works through his sophomore slump.

    Shorten up the offense and get in sync. We have a four game season in front of us until the break. Harbaugh knows that 4-0 or 3-1 gets us into great position for the playoffs and then we will have our two best WR’s back. The downfield passing game will re-emerge.

      1. Jack SEA schedule looks easy the rest of the way except for Indy this week, ATL away and maybe the Saints at home and of course the Niners in week 14.
        For us the Texans this week, no gimme in TEN. We get the Saints in the dome and a couple tough ones in ATL and SEA at home. It’s looking more and more like wildcard at best.

      2. 4-0 we may still have a shot at the division. 3-1 still gives us a shot at the playoffs. 2-2 and our goose may be cooked. Harbaugh is looking at a short 4 game season right now. The Skelton move reflects that.

        I am far more P.O’d about losing Marcus Cooper than I am about losing B.J. Daniels.

      3. Prime, I agree with your assessment until you get to Tenn. They have no QB right now and Locker won’t be back when they play SF.
        Seattle won the games they needed to win to have their division lead. They’ve done it with 0 QB play. We’re going to need them to overlook some of the easier games on their schedule.
        Right now though, it appears that it’s Seattle’s division to lose.

  24. New poll question. Is Prine Time a Real Estate Agent in Canada that bills at a clip of $100 an hour??

    Yes– 0 votes

    No– 973 votes


    1. I usually pass over your nonsense. I’l borrow Rockets mentality here. What’s up with your man crush on Prime?
      This is a 49er blog. Try to actually contribute to the football conversation going on around you.

      1. James,

        If you actually paid atattention to this blog, you would know that Prime is obsessed with me. He’s the blog stalker. Pay attention from this point forth son. When I lost 49er material, prime will follow it with an insult. Try and follow the blog before you address me son. Stay in your lane.

      2. So what you’re saying is You’re threatened by him.
        Calling someone Son is a defensive mechanism. You don’t have to feel threatened by me. Carry on.

      3. James

        I’m very afraid. Can’t you tell. Just keep your nose on your face, instead of in my affairs and you’ll do just fine here son.

      4. Boo hoo hoo 23 welcher. Everyone on here knows your game, its weak. Maybe if you could just keep it football related, no one would bother with you. Keep your head up son.

      5. FDM, new comers onto the blog calling out the douche 23 now, this is ironic justice at its finest. You asked him to keep it football, how can he when he does not even know what the game is all about!

      6. There are three simple rules for dealing with 23jordon, James.

        Rule 1: Never address him on his nonsense unless he has addressed you first. He hates it when people have the audacity to comment on his nonsense after he posts it in an open forum.

        Rule 2: Even if he does address you, never openly question his nonsense or point out that it is often knee-jerk and is almost always counterfactual. That merely prompts him to repeatedly repost the same nonsense in typo-laced tirades.

        Rule 3: Never, ever — no matter how incredulous you may be at the nonsense he posts — actually respond to any of his drivel. It just makes it worse for the blog as a whole. These days, most of the more astute posters here only engage him for the fun of baiting him. It is really only the other malcontents, both his cronies and his detractors, who bother acknowledging his nonsense.

        Come to think of it, let’s just call it one rule for dealing with Jordo as Rule 3, if followed, moots Rules 1 & 2. It is the rule I follow, and I think it works well. Sure, I have started posts that are intended to refute his nonsense, but I always stop before posting because his nonsense is almost always self-refuting. Why should I pile on when he does such a good job showing how inept he is on his own.

        Of course, in posting the above, I am sure I will draw what passes for his wrath. He might even petulantly tell me to mind my own business in a “threatening” manner, perhaps with a less than clever attempt at condescension included. How would I ever recover from such a futile and sophomoric retort? Oh well, I think I will live on the edge today and take the chance that I may have to withstand a few poorly chosen and inaptly wielded barbs.

  25. Watching this game tells us that JH And every coach in the league should be searching for a viable backup QB. IIf they don’t already have one. We don’t.

  26. what ever happened to the plan to make bj daniels a harbaugh swiss army knife—why didn’t they ever give him the ball in the preseason games as a running back or receiver—had he excelled in such a role he might still be on the team

  27. grant–I actually agree that the skelton signing signals a change in niners offensive philosophy, to a point..the read option has been ineffective because kaepernick has been tentative as a runner, to a large degree im sure on instructions from harbaugh, who doesn’t want to see his qb go down with injury…

    however when the niners are in the playoffs I would not be surprised at all to see the read option return…it is more palatable to risk kaepernick to injury where the reward is a playoff win than a regular season game

    1. Good post, Mark

      I believe that you’re correct on Harbaugh not wanting to lose CK with no adequate back-up. I think that CK is getting frustrated by it also.

  28. Great article and take on the situation, with some of these comments being equally as interesting. One thing I noticed is the immediate comparison to Alex smith in regards to harbough switching “styles” on Kap. Many people instantly jump to the obvious conclusions of things like, “really wishing we didn’t trade smith now,” or “bad move getting rid of the guy we need now since Kap’s style isn’t gonna work.”

    There’s a few things worth noting in regards to that notion:

    First of all, just because Kap’s strengths have been with his athletic abilities, and he’s had most of his success playing an opposing style to Alex smith, doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of doing that. The kids played in like 14 games and has demonstrated an insane amount of talent and natural athletic ability. If what his coaches asked of him was to stay in the pocket and make short reads, I bet with some practice he could do that just as well as smith did, especially when he gets his WR targets back, and they have a threatening run game by running gore with Kap under center, not in the pistol.

    Secondly, even if harbough and Kap do change gears and go back to basic niner football, that doesn’t mean they have to completely abandon the natural athletic ability of Kap and their dynamic play calling which they’ve had huge success with. That’s how they got to the Super Bowl remember, and they were 5 yrds and 4 bad play calls away from winning that bitch too.

    It also doesn’t mean that Kap will abandon his ability to throw the ball downfield, which was a huge hole in smiths game. And as you all know, these contrasting play styles compliment themselves very well when executed in the same gameplan. We know Kap can run, we know gore can run, we know Davis can go deep and we know boldin requires attention. Now if these threats are still on the table, but harbough chooses to implement old school niner football, the defences will have their hands full. And I think it’s wise to back the pressure off Kap and implement this strategy now. We saw success with that vs the rams, even the 1st half of the colts game, and by doing that we will open up our offense to do more things which we know we have the talent to do. And that’s something we simply weren’t able to do with Alex smith.

    Then the obvious bonus to this is that we will start stringing together sustained drives, winning time of posession and keeping our defence off the field. I think outside of a couple bonehead penalties/plays our D has looked great, other than when we expect them to hold up for 45 minutes..

    1. Rodge

      Great popost. The truth is the light. Some of us alleged 49er fans can’t face the truth. Its this pretty blue eyes from Smith that has us mesmerized!

  29. Whatever.

    The bottom line is still the bottom line. Either JH/Roman designs an offense that scores enough points to be a playoff team or they don’t. We’ll just see what happens. I get your point that if Kap goes down, JH would rather have Skelton in there than McCoy or Daniels. Point taken. Though if Kap goes down, so will the 49ers in my opinion.

    I’ve been following the NFL since 1967. Bill Walsh designed tremendous offenses for mobile QBs Montana and Young. Jeff Garcia, a short mobile guy is still the ONLY 49er QB to EVER throw 30 TDs in a season for two seasons in a row. And up until a few years ago, very few QBs had ever done that. Now Roman needs to prove he can design and run an effective offense with Kap.

    NFL QBs have always gotten MORE hurt in the pocket than they have running. Steve Young and Joe Theismann’s careers were ended by pocket hits. Montana went down from pocket hits (Jim Burt anyone?), Aikman’s career was ended by too many pocket hits, YA Title was bloodied in the pocket, etc etc etc How many times was Tarkenton, Montana, Young or Garcia hit hard running the ball? (don’t recall any – certainly not seriously enough to be put out of a game, much less a career)

    1. What are you talkin about? Many QB’s threw for 30+ TD’s a while back, in consecutive seasons.
      Dan Fouts 1980, 81
      Dan Marino, 84, 85, 86
      Jim Everette 88, 89
      Brett Favre 94, 95, 96, 97, 98

      There probably were more than this.

      1. Crab, you missed the key qualifier in his statement:

        the ONLY *49er* QB to EVER throw 30 TDs in a season for two seasons in a row.

      2. Kezar – A couple is 2 a few is 3.
        I named 4 QB’s and Favre did it twice. Then throw in Bartkowski, that’s actually 6 times QB’s accomplished the feat before the year 2000.

  30. >>Harbaugh has changed his philosophy and priorities, nothing less.

    Grant, that should have been written *last year* during the infatuation of the read option and pistol. This new “huge development” is nothing more than Harbaugh getting back to Harbaugh and the priorities and philisophy that got the these Niners to where they are today. Punishing defense, pro-set running game to set up the play action passing game, QBs “managing” wins. As a huge admirer of the approach the 2011 Niners took, I couldn’t be happier. Admirers here of gunslinging QBs and 450 yards passing… well, sorry about that, chief – you’d better sit Kaep on your fantasy teams from now on.

  31. You may be right on this one. That said, BJ Daniels “appeared” to be a pocket passer who had mobility. I didn’t see him as a Q-formation-only QB. Like Wilson, he only ran when he needed too and then ad libbed to make a play. He’s a nice fit in Seattle and I expect he’ll end up being their #2 next year. Unless HaRoMan decide to go to a REAL WCO, one where the QB reads the deeper routes, then the TE’s in the intermediate ranges and finally, check-downs to RB/FB’s, having a tall immobile QB will be futile. And the reason we NEED a mobile QB is b/c our pass ptotection often times gets destroyed under 3 seconds. CK makes our pass blocking look WAY better than it actually is (perpetual problem).

  32. “If you have a franchise quarterback, and Kaepernick is a franchise quarterback, you can’t expose him each week to the kind of hits defensive ends and linebackers mete out. If Harbaugh does nothing else, he must protect the franchise quarterback.”

    Aaron Rodgers said the same thing and was smeared for it:
    “Then that will make its way up to the NFL or enough of these guys who are going to be franchise guys, if they are not already, may take some unnecessary shots or decide that they would rather stay in the pocket and throw rather than rush the ball 15 times a game.”

    and he wanted to play for the Niners.

    1. A non-running Kaepernick is not proven to be a franchise QB. If he’s mostly a pocket passer he does not look elite yet, IMO. He has been anointed by many fans and media prematurely. Running is a big part of his game. Maybe we’ll see more of it in the form of scrambles and broken plays rather than designed runs like the read-option.

  33. Grant,

    Why do you assume Kaepernick is a “franchise QB” now that NFL defenses are taking away the easy runs? Isn’t your assessment based on the last half of last season and the playoffs, where the Niners caught people off guard with their change of style? If they go back to a more conventional offense, as you say is signaled by the acquisition of Skelton, then Kaepernick has not yet established himself as a franchise QB. He has a cannon for an arm, but does not scan the field well and he locks onto receivers from the snap. Running is an integral part of the Kaepernick’s skill set and makes him much more dangerous. If the Niners are, in fact, going back to the 2011-style offense then they were probably hasty in shipping off Alex Smith. Kaepernick has more skill on the deep ball, but no deep ball receivers to throw to, and he doesn’t run the offense as smoothly as the veteran Smith. Baalke/Harbaugh personnel moves are pretty mixed. Lots of hype there.

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