I spoke at length with former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia over the phone Wednesday afternoon. Here was our conversation.
ME: Do you think Kirk Cousins would be a good fit on the 49ers? Are their pitfalls to pursuing him?
GARCIA: “Nobody can truly predict the future as to how it would play out if the 49ers were to actually get Kirk Cousins in a 49ers uniform playing for the 49ers organization. But with what this young man has been able to achieve on the field in a short time from the standpoint of just the experience that he has gotten, the consistency that he has played with, the numbers that he has been able to put up as a relatively young quarterback in the NFL, I think having all of those in his back pocket is a positive as far as what you would be bringing onto your team.
“You’re bringing a player that has consistently proven himself week in and week out to be a high-caliber player at that position. Those are difficult to find and to come by. As we look at 32 teams in the NFL, 16 of those teams are looking for the same thing – that consistency, that high-caliber player to call their own. As we know through the draft, even though there is always going to be some big-name, up-and-coming college players that potentially could be NFL stars, especially at the quarterback position, nothing is guaranteed.
“And so, if you have a young man who has great experience already in the NFL, who is competing at a high level and proven himself, I think he’s definitely worthy of looking into and potentially paying to bring on to your team. And there are other things that need to be put into place as well, but handling that position would be a great advantage to the process of filling in the other needs needed to make this a more competitive football team.”
ME: I like what you said about 16 teams looking for a quarterback of his caliber. If you break it down into good quarterbacks and not good quarterbacks, about half of the league doesn’t have good quarterbacks. And Cousins certainly is good, but he’s not elite. What would you say he does well, and what are his limitations?
GARCIA: “Especially when you look at how he has played this year, I think he has continued to grow and mature in his decision-making process. I think that he’s forcing the issue less than he has in the past. I think if there was one thing that would get him into trouble in past seasons, it was forcing the ball into coverage, trying to make tighter throws he needed to make at probably the wrong times, and putting himself and his team into bad situations.
“I think that even though the season is still young, I haven’t seen him as apt to make those sort of poor decisions. I feel like he has played really consistently in the four games. He has shown physical and mental toughness. I like what I saw in him in the last game against Kansas City, how late in the game he wasn’t taking it upon himself and getting yards with his legs and extending plays and being physically tough out there on the field, stretching for first downs, I think those are things that I hadn’t really seen a whole lot from Cousins in the past.
“And to see him add that to his game on top of just how efficient he has been as a passer this season, I think just goes to show that he’s continuing to grow and mature and better himself on a weekly basis, and that’s the type of guy you want to have. You want to have a guy who hasn’t reached his ceiling yet, that still has room to grow, and yet in what he’s been doing, has been showing that he is a top-10-caliber quarterback. He may not be in the top five right now, but he’s a top-10 quarterback. Having a top-10 quarterback in the NFL, when you can put a good, solid defense on the other side of the ball, gives you a chance to win a lot of football games.”
ME: I know you think Cousins would be worth the money in free agency, but there is a possibility that Washington would give him the franchise tag for the third year. And in that case, the 49ers would have to trade a couple of first-round picks to get Cousins, which would be like mortgaging the future for the present. Do you think Cousins is worth that type of commitment?
GARCIA: “I don’t know if he’s worth that type of commitment. There are a handful of quarterbacks coming out of college football that are exciting options to build a team around. If the 49ers are in position to draft one of those guys, they could use the picks they have left to build the rest of their team. That might be the best option.”
ME: Yeah, especially if you were in Kyle Shanahan’s position and you had a six-year contract. You would have the luxury to take the time necessary to develop one of these QBs. If you were the coach, which one of these QBs coming out would you be most eager to work with?
GARCIA: “I think Sam Darnold is a guy that I would be excited about working with, because I think he possesses not only the physical tools, but the physical and mental toughness that is required to play the position. I think he’s got a tremendous upside. I think the fact that he plays in a pro style of offense, he understands and knows how to play from under center as well as in the shotgun as well as being athletically gifted for such a big guy. He shows great mobility, great agility in getting away and extending plays and making throws on the run. He’s a guy that excited me.
“I’ve watched Josh Rosen at UCLA. I like his leadership on the field. I don’t know if he has the same ability that Darnold possesses right now. I’ve watched the quarterback at Wyoming, and he plays in somewhat of a pro-style system due to the fact that it’s the former North Dakota State coach that coaches at Wyoming. And so, that’s an interesting look with him as well. And then you have the Oklahoma quarterback.
“There are going to be guys that are out there that have been extremely productive as college football players, but as we know and as we have seen year in and year out, especially at the quarterback position, there’s not a true science to picking that guy who’s going to potentially be successful. And, it’s really a shot in the dark in a lot of ways, and maybe some guys have more of an upside than others, and whether teams can figure that out or not is really yet to be seen or proven.
“But if I were looking at the prospects, I would lean heavily on Darnold. And if I can’t get Darnold, behind him I would really have to do my homework as to what guy becomes the next guy that I look to as building a team around and as our future.”
ME: Seems like Darnold is much more mobile than Rosen. Rosen doesn’t move his feet well when he’s pressured. But it is a little alarming that Darnold has thrown so many interceptions this season. I want to know what has gone into that. Seems to have come out of nowhere. That’s an issue of decision making, which you would work with as a coach.
GARCIA: “Well, he’s still a young quarterback. He’s still a young man. And not to say that you can continue to use that excuse moving forward, but he probably is a guy who also has tremendous confidence and belief in his arm strength and also in the players that are around him as USC. We talked about this earlier with Kirk Cousins, in the sense that he was probably a guy at times that took chances that he shouldn’t have been taking in the NFL, and that’s something that Sam Darnold is going to have to learn as well, to be more protective of the football at times, to be a better decision maker, that not every throw is the one that you maybe could make but you shouldn’t make. That’s how these guys continue to hopefully learn and progress as decision makers moving forward.”
ME: One more question about Cousins. I know he came up through Shanahan, but he really started playing under Jay Gruden and Sean McVay. Do you think if the Niners were to get Cousins, he would be a good fit?
GARCIA: “I think he would be a great fit. There are similarities in style of offenses. They’re all West Coast related. There’s a lot of terminology that’s going to carry over from the two systems. And I think when you look at the way Kyle has run his system, the way it was run at Houston, the way his dad ran it in Denver, the way they ran it in Washington, and what he did in Cleveland with Brian Hoyer, and then Atlanta, taking them to the Super Bowl last year, it’s a quarterback’s offense.
“I always thought that if there was an offense that I wanted to play in, it was that Shanahan-style offense, because they do such a great job of building off their run game. They don’t need high draft picks or well-known names as running backs, stars, to get production out of that position, as they have shown in many instances in the past. They’ve had 1,000-plus-yards rushers out of guys that nobody knew anything about. And off of that running game, they’re able to build that play-action and movement aspect of the passing game, which I’ve always thought was just tremendous, and there are opportunities to strike down the field, which we haven’t seen a whole lot yet with the 49ers, but I think will be a part of their offense moving forward as they continue to grow and build from within the system.
“That’s something that has always been exciting to watch out of their system and just how they spread the ball around and how they create opportunities down the field in their passing game. Those are things that I think Kirk Cousins does extremely well, and would be a great asset to if that opportunity were to present itself.”