It's the quarterback, stupid


First reaction to 49ers Coach Mike Singletary getting fired: WTF?

After sleeping on it my reaction is ... yeah. Pretty much the same.

Yes, the 49ers haven’t had a winning season since 2002. But you know what else they haven’t had since then? A decent quarterback. (Yes, Jeff Garcia was technically released after the 2003 season but I’m not exactly counting his 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions that year as a stellar season. We’re just paying attention to when he was productive, a.k.a. a Pro Bowl quarterback.)

For the last eight years, the ownership’s coaching changes have been at the bare minimum, questionable. Starting off with firing Steve Mariucci after the 2002 season (did I mention that was the team’s last winning season?) because the team got whalloped in the playoffs by eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay, the Niners have burned through three additional coaches in eight years. Dennis Erickson (9-23), Mike Nolan (18-37) and Singletary (18-22). Since the reign of Bill Walsh followed by the successful years of George Seifert in the 1990s, Niners ownership has cycled through new coaches at a pace of about one every three years.

Sure that’s not as bad as the late ‘70s when the team cycled through one coach a year between Dick Nolan (Mike’s dad) and Walsh, but guess who else surfaced as a God among men in Walsh’s second coaching season? Yup. Joe Montana.

Meanwhile since 2004, here’s the fun-filled list of Niners starting QBs: Tim Rattay, Alex Smith, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett (started due to injuries), Shaun Hill, J.T. O’Sullivan, Troy Smith. And in those seven years, Smith has been the on-again, off-again starter as the Niners have seemingly had amnesia about why they yanked him in the first place.

As I describe it to my friends, here is the apparent logic:
Mid-season: “That’s it — Smith is out. This guy can’t get it done in the clutch and he’s too inconsistent. Let’s get the other guy ... who is it this year?”
One week later: “Hey Joe Schmoe was great! We’re on a roll now, glad we got that problem all squared away.”
One week later: “Hmmm ... Schmoe didn’t look too hot that last time. Why did we bench Smith again?”
One week later: “Damnit, Schmoe stunk it up big time. Well it’s a good thing we were just trying him out and have Smith sitting here. Yeah ... that’s what we were doing. Smith was our No. 1 draft pick after all ... sure wouldn’t want to waste that talent. And money. Because then we’d look stupid.”
Two weeks later: “Well Smith looked shaky but we’re almost done with yet another disappointing season so we’ll stick it out and find a better alternative (and by that we mean cheap, used-up back up) in the off season.”

And ... rinse and repeat.

Know what the definition of insanity is? Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. So, here’s a thought. Let’s actually draft a GOOD quarterback — this year’s college class has a few potential greats — and pick up an proven veteran for a one-year contract to show this guy the ropes and perhaps righten the ship in 2011. The name Donovan McNabb comes to mind, for example.

And oh yeah. Dump Smith.