49ers review: Quarterbacks


49ers review: Quarterbacks

This is the final installment of a nine-part series that reviews every 49ers player and position group.The 49ers' passing game was efficient, but it certainly was not prolific. There were 121 times during the NFL regular season in which a quarterback threw for 300 yards or more. The 49ers were not represented on that list. Alex Smith threw topped 250 yards passing only three times with a regular-season high of 291 yards in a Week 4 win at Philadelphia. The 49ers ranked 29th in the NFL in yards passing. But Smith was ninth in the league in passer rating, largely because he threw fewer interceptions than any of the 33 quarterbacks who qualified by attempting 14 passes per game. The 49ers did not perform well on third downs and in the red zone. Grade: B-
Alex Smith -- There were two things Smith did exceptionally well in 2011: He avoided turnovers and he played great when his team had its back against the wall. Only Aaron Rodgers had fewer turnovers at the quarterback position than Smith this season. Rodgers threw six interceptions and did not lose a fumble; Smith had five interceptions and lost two fumbles. Smith finished the regular season with 159 passing attempts without an interception. That ranks No. 2 all-time for the 49ers, behind Steve Young's 183 consecutive attempts without getting picked off in 1993. Smith attempted another 68 passes in the two playoff games without an interception, too. Smith helped rally the 49ers to six fourth-quarter comeback victories, including the playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints. That was Smith's finest game, as he threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns. He even rushed for a 28-yard score that gave the 49ers a brief lead late in the fourth quarter before the Saints took the lead again. Perhaps the biggest knock on Smith is that he is reluctant to throw the ball unless he sees a receiver wide open. That's part of the reason he was so good about avoiding interceptions. Ironically, he demonstrated he can do it on the most-important play of the season. Smith made up his mind to throw the ball well before his target broke into the clear with the 49ers down by three points in the closing seconds against the Saints. Tight end Vernon Davis was on the opposite side of Saints linebacker Scott Shanle when Smith started his throwing motion. As the ball was in the air, Davis cleared Shanle and the perfectly thrown pass arrived at Davis just a split-second before safety Roman Harper greeted Davis at the goal line. Smith came through for the game-winning 14-yard touchdown pass with :09 remaining. The next week, Smith made a couple nice passes on deep balls to Davis for touchdowns against the Giants. But he missed a potential big-gainer when he did not pull the trigger on a pass to tight end Delanie Walker on a wheel route along the left sideline early in the third quarter. For the most part, Smith did not make his receivers or offensive line better. He did not "throw open receivers" with regularity. And he often held the ball too long and took unnecessary sacks. Smith was sacked 44 times. He could've avoided a good number of those sacks. On Tuesday, Smith said on "Chronicle Live" that in the coming weeks he will analyze where he needs to get better and be honest with himself. That's where I see Smith can get better -- a lot better. Perhaps with a full offseason to fully comprehend the offense, Smith will have a greater understanding of the angles he can exploit against certain defenses to get rid of the ball quicker and allow his receivers to make more plays.RELATED: Alex Smith game logs
Colin Kaepernick -- When asked late in the season how Kaepernick was progressing, one team source said, "I think pretty well. But we won't really know until we see him in a game." Kaepernick completed 3 of 3 passes for 35 yards in mopup time of a Week 5 blowout of Tampa Bay. He misfired on both passes in the fourth quarter of a decisive December victory over St. Louis. But the 49ers still don't know, exactly, what they have in Kaepernick. The 49ers traded up to select him in the second round of last year's draft. Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke like his arm and athleticism. There's no denying that Kaepernick has a cannon for an arm. As one defensive player said it, however, he needs to adjust his arm action to provide better touch on short passes. He also probably needs to tighten up his throwing motion. Kaepernick is not satisfied to carry a clipboard as the backup, and that's a good thing. Harbaugh has said the quarterback position is not an anointed position. If there is a point in which Harbaugh believes Kaepernick gives the 49ers their best chance to win games, then a switch would be made. But Kaepernick has a long way to go. Smith has earned the trust of Harbaugh, and it'll be difficult for Kaepernick to compete with that. He must have a good offseason in the classroom to even put himself in that conversation.Scott Tolzien -- The 49ers opted to claim Tolzien off waivers from the San Diego Chargers to serve as the No. 3 quarterback, rather than devote that position to a veteran, such as Josh McCown, who was among the final cuts. The 49ers know that Tolzien is going to give them a full day of work. He was a diligent worker during his four months with the 49ers. He rarely took any snaps in the 49ers' offense during practices his rookie season, and he saw limited reps with the scout team. He'll get a full offseason to attempt to convince the 49ers that he is worth keeping around.

Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions


Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions

SANTA CLARA – While rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard is taking a micro view of his promotion, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is not shy about admitting he is looking at the big picture.

Shanahan said how Beathard performs after replacing Brian Hoyer as starting quarterback will have “a ton” of influence on how the 49ers proceed during the offseason.

After all, the 49ers know every position will come under tremendous scrutiny as the organization looks to add the pieces that will make the club competitive.

“That’s for every position. That’s for every player on our team. That’s for every coach on our team,” Shanahan said. “We’re 0-6, and that’s extremely tough. But I’m extremely excited about this place and excited about where we’re at and where we’re going. There’s not a moment that I don’t waste thinking about that stuff.”

Beathard will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium.

Hoyer failed in his bid to earn consideration as the 49ers’ quarterback for the remainder of this season and beyond during his six starts. Hoyer completed just 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 74.1.

Now, Beathard gets his chance. But he said he is not thinking about the big picture and what it might mean for the future.

“I’m really just trying to take it one day, one week at a time,” Beathard said. “I’m not looking that far ahead. Right now, my focus is on today’s practice and geared towards beating the Cowboys and doing the best we can to get better and improve.”

Beathard was pressed into action last week when Hoyer’s struggles continued at Washngton. Beathard stepped in and completed 19 of 36 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception. For the first time, Beathard is getting the first-team practice snaps with a game plan that is designed specifically for him.

Said Beathard, “Getting those extra reps, reps with guys that you don’t usually throw to, in the huddle with the guys that are out there, I think it’ll help a lot.”

Joe Montana: Dwight Clark appreciates all the support from former teammates


Joe Montana: Dwight Clark appreciates all the support from former teammates

More than 35 players from the 49ers’ first Super Bowl champion will be in attendance on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium to show support for Dwight Clark, who revealed in March he was diagnosed with ALS.

Clark, 60, will have ample opportunity to reconnect with some of his old friends on Saturday evening and again on Sunday. At halftime, Joe Montana, surrounded by most of the 49ers' 1981 team, will introduce Clark before a video tribute.

Clark is also expected to make some remarks while situated in a suite for the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Montana and his wife, Jennifer, have remained in close contact with Clark and his wife, Kelly. The Clarks recently watched the Blue Angels in San Francisco with the Montanas during Fleet Week.

“He’s getting pretty inundated with everyone staying in touch with him at this point,” Montana said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“It’s fun for him. At one point, he was telling his wife, Kelly, ‘This is what it’s all about. This is what I want and what I miss, seeing the guys.’ So any of the guys reaching out to him, he surely appreciates it.”

Montana said Clark has not lost his positive outlook or his sense of humor, as evidenced by some not-fit-for-print words he recently had about his wheelchair. Montana said there are always some good laughs and stories any time Clark gets together with his friends.

“That’s the fun part," Montana said. “You just try to get him to forget what’s there, and that you’re there for him whenever. I think the support is the biggest thing right now. In that stage of ALS, it's got to be getting tough, where all of a sudden, things are becoming more and more difficult.”