San Francisco 49ers: How Important Is the Backup Quarterback Situation?


Aug 25, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colt McCoy (2) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Audie Cole (57) in the second quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers ended the 2012 season with Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith, two starting-caliber quarterbacks, on the roster. Now, they have a huge problem at backup quarterback.

To stockpile draft picks, unload a hefty salary and keep the team in order, the 49ers traded Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs. They then traded for Colt McCoy, who was, at the time of the trade, thought of as a solid backup capable of coming into a game and keeping things smooth in the case of an injury.

However, he hasn’t looked like one so far.

McCoy has thrown for 185 yards this preseason, and he has completed a decent 17 of 28 passes. However, he has also been intercepted three times. Turnovers have been a problem for McCoy, and they could cost the 49ers if he is forced into action.

The former Cleveland Browns signal-caller is unlikely to play much, but if Kaepernick gets hurt, McCoy would have to start. That would cost the 49ers, as McCoy has had a horrendous NFL career.

And if he is thrown into the fire for even one game, it could derail the 49ers’ season.

To avoid a slew of losses in the case of an injury, San Francisco has searched for a superior option. Journeyman Seneca Wallace was recently signed, and he made a solid first impression by completing both of his passes in San Francisco’s Week 3 preseason win over the Minnesota Vikings.

However, he isn’t the answer. He didn’t play in 2012, and he compiled an appalling 65.4 quarterback rating in 2011. His career quarterback rating (81.3) isn’t horrible, but the fact that he hasn’t put up decent numbers since 2010 is concerning.

So, coach Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t feel good with Wallace at the helm. He would feel the same way about seventh-round draft pick B.J. Daniels, who has impressed in brief periods in the preseason but is far from being ready to start or even back up. He has completed eight of his 12 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown this preseason, but his numbers weren’t great at South Florida.

He threw 10 interceptions and just 14 touchdowns in his senior year, completing just 56.7 percent of his passes along the way. It’s safe to say Harbaugh wouldn’t hand the reins to Daniels in the case of an injury unless Daniels shows significant improvement.

In other words, the 49ers have a huge problem on their hands.

McCoy has underwhelmed many with his poor performance, and his career isn’t going to be resurrected in San Francisco. The same goes with Wallace, who can keep things fairly smooth in a spot start but can’t carry a team permanently.

Most backups can’t carry a team permanently, as most teams don’t have the luxury of having someone like Indianapolis’ Matt Hasselbeck backing up. However, Kaepernick is more likely to get hurt than most quarterbacks, as he runs the read-option and is vulnerable to a monstrous hit in the open field.

So, the 49ers need a better backup more than other teams do.

Still, the team is lucky that it has tons of talent around Kaepernick. It has a star-studded defense, stellar running game and impeccable offensive line, so it might be able to get by in a game without Kaepernick. However, it wouldn’t be able to survive in the playoffs with McCoy.

In other words, the 49ers’ season relies heavily on Kaepernick’s ability to stay healthy.

It’s hard to say the 49ers should have tried to fix that problem by pursuing a better backup this offseason, as they need the cap space and don’t want to deal with the ego of a starting-caliber quarterback backing up Kaepernick. However, it is easy to say the 49ers would be better off with someone like Hasselbeck ready to step in.

The 49ers seem like a perfect team, and they currently have a paucity of question marks. However, the injury bug always manages to work its way into the equation, and it will do exactly that for every team.

And if the 49ers get hit hard at quarterback, it could cost them the elusive title they crave. So, the backup quarterback situation is extremely important.