49ers

Scot McCloughan discusses Smith over Rodgers, 49ers QB situation

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AP

Scot McCloughan discusses Smith over Rodgers, 49ers QB situation

When coach Mike Nolan and personnel chief Scot McCloughan inherited a two-win team more than a decade ago, their first act together was to draft a player they envisioned as the 49ers’ quarterback of the future.

The 49ers under Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took a different approach this offseason. They determined it was best to bring in a bridge quarterback, improve the roster at other positions and push back their hunt for their franchise signal-caller until the second year.

That’s how the 49ers ended up with Alex Smith in 2005 and Brian Hoyer in 2017.

McCloughan, this week’s guest on The 49ers Insider Podcast, spoke about Alex Smith’s steady and consistent rise to being a standout NFL starter and the decision long ago to select him with the No. 1 overall pick – 23 spots ahead of Aaron Rodgers.

“It was partly my fault, if I could’ve traded back two or three spots, which I was trying to do, but no one would come up, I would’ve taken Aaron at three or four, hands down,” McCloughan said.

Instead, Rodgers was still available when it was the Green Bay Packers’ turn to select at No. 24. Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson called McCloughan, who previously worked with Thompson in the personnel departments of the Packers and Seattle Seahawks.

“They’re on the clock,” McCloughan said. “And he’s like, ‘What’s going on here?’ And I was like, ‘Ted, the guy is a really good football player.’ He said, ‘What do you think?’ I told him, ‘If I were in your spot, I’d take him at three or four, and they’re sitting at where they were.”

McCloughan selected Smith with the belief he was not a quick-fix answer. Shortly after drafting Smith, who had yet to turn 21, McCloughan stated that Smith would not begin to hit his peak until his seventh NFL season.

Sure enough, Smith’s seventh season in the NFL was in 2011 – two seasons after McCloughan was no longer with the 49ers. After never having the same coordinator or offensive system in full back-to-back seasons, Smith started to find continuity in 2011, and his career has flourished.

In 25 starts with Alex Smith under Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the 49ers went 19-5-1. After Harbaugh benched Smith following a concussion in 2012, the 49ers traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs to clear the way for Colin Kaepernick.

“The plan was with (then-49ers offensive coordinator Mike) McCarthy and with coach Nolan, the first year, we were going to sit him,” McCloughan said. “Of course, we weren’t going the right way, and guys were getting hurt and he ended up playing solid his rookie year.

“I always knew with him he’d fight through adversity, which he did. I’m so proud of him. First of all, he’s a great person. Second of all, he’s a really good quarterback and he’s having the success he deserves.”

Smith’s career has taken off since Andy Reid and then-Kansas City general manager John Dorsey acquired Smith in a trade from the 49ers. In Smith’s 65 starts with the Chiefs, the team is 45-20. Kansas City (4-0) is currently the only unbeaten team remaining in the NFL this season.

McCloughan knows Reid and Dorsey very well, and they called him to get his assessment of Smith before making the deal with the 49ers before the 2013 season, McCloughan said.

“You can’t miss on this guy from the standpoint, he shows up every day and he’ll be the same guy every guy,” McCloughan said. “He’s A-class character, and he’s got talent. Now, if you want him to throw it 35, 40 times a game, he might not be your guy. But he’s going to get everybody lined up, get them in and out of the huddle, and they’re going to respect him from a leadership standpoint (and) a toughness standpoint.”

Meanwhile, the 49ers’ new regime decided to postpone their quest for a long-term answer at quarterback until next offseason – when there are likely to be better options available on the veteran and rookie markets.

Of the 32 quarterbacks who have attempted 90 or more passes through Week 4, only rookie Deshone Kizer (50.9) and Joe Flacco (65.0) have lower passer ratings than Hoyer (67.9).

McCloughan said Hoyer is the kind of quarterback who has the ability to manage a game and give his team an opportunity to win against most teams. But Hoyer is not likely to ever carry a team to victory.

“The thing with Hoyer, he reminds me of Colt McCoy,” McCloughan said. “He’s not a front-line guy, but he’s played a lot of football and is intelligent. If the guys around him are good enough, you’re going to win more than you lose because of what they say about Alex. He’s a game manager.”

Shanahan said on Monday he is sticking with Hoyer as the 49ers’ starter ahead of rookie backup C.J. Beathard. McCloughan said has a high opinion of Beathard as a player who can ultimately develop into a starter down the road.

“I liked him a lot,” McCloughan said of Beathard. “He’s one of those guys, kind of like Matt Hasselbeck. Right away, he wasn’t a starter. It took a couple of years.”

Hasselbeck was a sixth-round draft pick of the Packers in 1998 who did not become a starter until 2001 with Seattle.

“They’re just intelligent guys,” McCloughan said. “It’s so important at that position, don’t make mistakes. It’s not bad to punt. You have third and 8, and everything is covered, don’t force it. I think that’s the way Hoyer is for sure, and I think Beathard has really good upside.”

Greg Cosell: Jimmy Garoppolo needs work on his 'quarterback feet'

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USATSI

Greg Cosell: Jimmy Garoppolo needs work on his 'quarterback feet'

Greg Cosell of NFL Films believes 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo “has a chance to be a top-level quarterback.” But there remains room for improvement from the player the 49ers awarded a franchise-record contract in the offseason.

Garoppolo has a quick release and can throw at a number of different arm angles to avoid oncoming pass-rushers. But while his accuracy underneath was unquestioned during his 5-0 run as the 49ers’ starter, most of the time his deep throws did not reach the target.

Garoppolo completed just four of 16 attempts to targets 20 yards or more down the field last season for 134 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus.

[RELATED: Greg Cosell: Kyle Shanahan does one thing 'better than any coach in the NFL']

During the offseason program, Garoppolo appeared to struggle on his deep throws, too. Cosell, a guest on the 49ers Insider Podcast, spoke about Garoppolo’s mechanics.

“Because he has very quick feet, I think people just assume he has great feet all the time when he delivers the ball,” Cosell said. “There’s a difference between having quick, athletic feet and having really good quarterback feet. And I think he needs to work on the quarterback feet part.

“I think guys who have that kind of snap delivery, sometimes they don’t step exactly to their throw and they throw a little bit off-balance and that could really impact your accuracy to a significant degree. So my guess is those are the kinds of things they’ve worked on. Those are tweaks. I don’t think it will prevent him from being a really good player.”

Garoppolo appeared in six games with five starts last season after the 49ers acquired him for a second-round draft pick in a trade with the New England Patriots. Garoppolo completed 120 of 178 pass attempts (67.4 percent) for 1,580 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

Cosell said it is important for all quarterbacks to use consistent mechanics when making throws from a clean pocket.

“Think of a major league pitcher,” Cosell said. “They theoretically should throw the ball the same way every time. So should a quarterback unless the defense dictates otherwise. If the defense doesn’t dictate otherwise, the throws should look the same.”

Greg Cosell: Kyle Shanahan does one thing 'better than any coach in the NFL'

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AP

Greg Cosell: Kyle Shanahan does one thing 'better than any coach in the NFL'

There is a lot of hope surrounding the 49ers entering the 2018 season.

Much of that is because of Jimmy Garoppolo.

Much of that is also because of Kyle Shanahan.

"Kyle is one of the most innovative and creative offensive minds in football," Richard Sherman said back in mid-March after he signed with the 49ers.

On the most recent episode of the 49ers Insider Podcast with Matt Maiocco, Greg Cosell of NFL Films offered some high praise for San Francisco's head coach.

"When you look at a Kyle Shanahan offense, I think the thing that stands out the most -- that he does better than any coach in the NFL -- is the fusion between the run game and the pass game. The run game and the pass game with their play-action concepts look exactly the same.

"And it's very, very difficult for defenses to differentiate the too very often until it's too late. And when you have a quarterback like Garoppolo -- who tends to be a quick decision-maker, a quick processor, he has a very quick compact delivery and then the ball gets out -- I think that just makes it even more difficult."

The 49ers won all five of Garoppolo's starts last season and put up 26, 25, 44 and 34 points in the last four games, respectively.

He was rewarded with a 5-year, $137.5 million deal ($74.1 million guaranteed) -- which drastically increases the expectations.

Garoppolo and Shanahan could become one of the top head coach-quarterback duos for many years.

"When you talk to defensive coaches around the league, they will talk about Kyle Shanahan as one of the two or three of the best in the league when it comes to offensive design and game planning," Cosell added.