Jeff Garcia: 49ers' QBs lack footwork; future backup remains unclear


Jeff Garcia: 49ers' QBs lack footwork; future backup remains unclear

Editor’s note: Former 49ers Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia, now an NBC Sports Bay Area analyst, shares his thoughts on the team each week throughout the season. This week, he looks at where the 49ers stand after cutting Reuben Foster.

It’s a terrible situation, and you feel for the alleged victim.

Reuben Foster showed a lack of ability to stay on the right path, and there is no question the 49ers made the right decision to release him after the latest incident.

You just hope the young man can correct his decision-making and get back on track -- personally and as a player in the National Football League. The 49ers were supportive of him and tried to work with him. But the poor decisions he continued to make were not a benefit to anyone.

Now, the 49ers move on without one of the key members of their 2017 draft class.

Big offseason awaits front office

It has been a rough road for the 49ers’ 2017 draft class. The higher picks have not produced. We’re still waiting for Solomon Thomas to show up. He hasn’t been the player the 49ers needed from that level of investment -- the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. He has not played to the level of expectation.

Foster, the other first-round pick, no longer is around. During his time with the 49ers, he was not dependable on the field, and he was not dependable off the field.

He started 17 games in 27 opportunities. He was constantly on the ground, injured. And there were many times when you did not know when he would be returning. At times, you would see moments of greatness and he would show that, yes, he really has the ability within him. But he was too inconsistent.

The 49ers are not just getting rid of a bad seed with his decision-making outside of the locker room -- they are getting rid of a player who really did not live up to his level of expectation as a player, either.

Everybody had reason to be excited about John Lynch’s initial moves as 49ers general manager to create more draft picks. But there is a lot of work ahead of them. It is still a young, unproven team. And they are a vulnerable team, as far as their ability to stay healthy and learn how to avoid mistakes on the field.

This year, Mike McGlinchey is turning out to be a good player. Fred Warner has shown a lot of promise, too. But the rest of the class has yet to be seen. Moving forward, the upcoming draft class is going to be an important one for Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. They need to get some positive hits with their high draft picks.

[RELATED: McGlinchey, Warner lead way for 49ers' 2018 rookie class]

No closer to finding Garoppolo’s backup

The future is still undetermined when it comes to the 49ers’ backup quarterback situation. We’ve seen moments when Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard showed they have the ability to play at the highest level. But the key is consistency. If you can’t do it week in and week out, you’re going to find yourself on the outside looking in.

The inexperience is starting to show itself with Mullens. Tampa Bay put a lot of pressure on him, and the offensive line didn’t help him out much, either. But when there were opportunities to make throws, he was off the mark.

Footwork is a big thing for me, and when I watch the play of the 49ers’ quarterbacks, I see a lot of room for improvement. When you watch a guy like Baker Mayfield play the game, his feet are moving. He’s up in the pocket. He’s challenging the line of scrimmage. He’s getting the ball off, five steps, hitching up, drilling to a target location.

I do not see that from the 49ers’ quarterbacks. They throw flat-footed too often. There’s no hitch in the pocket. They’re not getting their feet going in the right direction for accuracy. It’s not just important to have the mental ability to read defenses and go through progressions. Quarterbacks also need to on top of sharp with their timing, accuracy and execution. Those things are lacking, and those are things you work on every day in practice.

Oftentimes, Beathard -- and even Jimmy Garoppolo, sometimes -- was not helping out the offensive line by hitching up in the pocket or having that natural clock going off in his head. I feel like the 49ers’ quarterbacks have been late with their feet, which means they’re late with their decisions, which means they’re inaccurate with the ball.

A rough final stretch

Let’s be honest: Right now, the 49ers are playing with third-string players. They are practice-squad players who have been elevated to starters. They can’t even compete with backups in the National Football League.

We knew going into Tampa Bay that they were facing a highly explosive offense. The 49ers' coverage was not that bad, but their containment of the quarterback was terrible. On offense, the 49ers could not convert on third downs. Mullens had a rough first half. They ran the ball well, but they got behind and were forced to throw.

Now, they’re going to face the Seahawks, and we all know Russell Wilson has a unique ability to extend plays. The Seahawks play smash-mouth football and will try to run the ball down your throat. They are on the cusp of being a playoff team, so they will be a highly motivated opponent.

The 49ers right now are struggling to find themselves. They are struggling to get players on the field who are healthy. It is really a bad situation right now. We just hope that the 49ers can be competitive.

I think a lot of it starts with the energy level. Granted, there were some distractions they had to overcome against Tampa Bay. But, moving forward, there will be more distractions. This team has to step up and find its way.

You just wonder where bright spots can be found in these last five games.

49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo absorbs Joe Montana's wisdom about winning

49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo absorbs Joe Montana's wisdom about winning

Throughout NFL history, of quarterbacks to start at least 100 career games, only Tom Brady (.773) and Roger Staubach (.746) have posted better regular-season winning percentages than 49ers legend Joe Montana (.713). So, when it comes to knowing the secrets to victory, he's a pretty good source of advice.

Montana won 117 of his 164 career regular-season starts, precisely 100 victories of which came with San Francisco. On Wednesday, he posted a photo on Instagram from the final one of those wins with the 49ers, in which he offered up a secret to his success.

"Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first," Montana wrote. "They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true. There is, I believe, no other way to live."
As of the time of this writing, that post had received 15,685 likes, one of which came from another 49ers quarterback who happens to have a knack for winning as well -- Jimmy Garoppolo.

[RELATED: Where Jimmy G, Carr rank among NFL starting quarterbacks]

Jimmy G, of course, displayed his penchant for winning immediately upon joining the 49ers, winning his first five starts after San Francisco acquired him midway through the 2017 season. Across 24 regular-season starts with the 49ers, he has posted a 19-5 record (.792). Not to mention, he was arguably one missed completion away from winning Super Bowl LIV.

Garoppolo might have his own secrets to his success, but it certainly can't hurt if he picks up a thing or two from Joe Cool.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

NFL rumors: George Kittle, 49ers 'not close at all' on new contract

NFL rumors: George Kittle, 49ers 'not close at all' on new contract

George Kittle is the best tight end in the NFL. He just doesn't want to be paid like it.

Kittle arguably is the 49ers' best overall player, and an indispensable part of their operation. He is a leader in the locker room, their top receiving threat and his blocking ability is closer to that of an above-average offensive lineman. Perhaps that's why his agent is looking to get him paid -- not as a tight end, receiver or linemen -- but rather, some combination of those positions.

"I've been talking a lot to [Kittle's] agent, Jack Bechta, over the last couple of months and he has consistently said, 'I don't care about the tight end market; I'm being paid to do a George Kittle deal,'" NFL Network's Michael Silver said Friday on "NFL Total Access." "And I tend to agree with him here. He is their No. 1 target, so important in that locker room, and clearly, he is doing something that transcends what a typical tight end does."

Last season, Kittle led San Francisco with 85 receptions (on 107 targets) for 1,053 yards despite missing two games due to injury. His 3,106 receiving yards (including the playoffs) are the most ever in NFL history by a tight end in his first three seasons. And, as Silver noted, with Kittle in the lineup last season, the 49ers -- heading into Super Bowl LIV -- averaged 5.6 yards on rushes outside of the tackles; when he was out of the lineup, that number dropped to 3.3 yards.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

He is a dynamic offensive weapon, which adds to the complexity of his contract negotiations. Back in 2014, Bears tight end Jimmy Graham signed a four-year, $40 million contract that reset the market at that position, and in the time since, there has been minimal growth. According to Over the Cap, Chargers tight end Hunter Henry currently averages the highest annual salary at the position at $10.607 million.

It isn't expected to be a quick or simple negotiation, and it's easy to see why. San Francisco, of course, would love to secure Kittle on as low of an agreeable salary as possible, but it's assumed both sides have differing opinions -- at least initially -- on exactly what that would be.

And, as Silver reported, it doesn't sound like Kittle and the 49ers are closing in on a deal anytime soon.

"They're not close at all," Silver said. "There were some preliminary talks back in February; nothing for the last couple months. ... This is a difficult situation because during a pandemic, owners are not super eager to shell out massive deals. There's a lot of uncertainty. And so I'm not sure how much of this situation can be attributed to the unique COVID-19 situation, and how much of it is just a gap in how each side views this. I know there's a lot of good intention. You talk to the 49ers, they say, 'We want him. We will get this done.' I know George Kittle wants to be there, but they have a ways to go in terms of figuring out his value."

[RELATED: Pay the man: Why Kittle deserves to be paid like top WR]

Ultimately, if San Francisco and Kittle can't come to an agreement, the 49ers always have the option of applying the franchise tag on him next offseason when he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. That would pay him the average of the top-five players at his position in 2021.

Of course, first, they must come to an agreement on what his position is.