49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 7, 2011
Garrard to 49ers? Harbaugh liked him nine years ago

By now most 49ers fans probably have heard about Jim Harbaugh's quarterback analysis of 2002. Harbaugh was a lowly Raiders assistant coach that year, and one of his assignments was to rate the quarterbacks coming out in the draft. Harbaugh ended up writing an unconventional report, and it was one of the things that emboldened the 49ers when they placed Harbaugh atop their list of prospective head coached last year.


Harbaugh didn't think much of the top two quarterbacks taken that season, David Carr (1st overall) and Joey Harrington (3rd overall), and gave them late-round grades. Harbaugh and the 49ers released Carr sight unseen in July. Conversely, he gave two lightly regarded quarterbacks that year, Tony Romo and David Garrard, early-round grades. Garrard ended up being drafted by Jacksonville in the fourth round; Romo went undrafted. Of the 14 quarterbacks drafted that year, Romo and Garrard were the only ones still starting in 2010.

The Jaguars released Garrard on Tuesday, surprising everyone, including Garrard. He immediately became a free agent and immediately began drawing interest from "four or five" unnamed teams, his agent said. Garrard will begin looking for a new home today.

Each of Garrard's suitors has a compelling story as to why Garrard would be a good fit. It's hard to think of one, however, that would top the 49ers' story. Of all the quarterback traits that Harbaugh holds dear, athleticism and accuracy are at the top. You see that with one his past protégés, Josh Johnson and Andrew Luck, and you see it with the player he selected in the second round this year, Colin Kaepernick.

That's likely what prompted Harbaugh to give Romo and Garrard such high grades in 2002. Even at age 33, Garrard still appears to have the ability to move. He rushed 66 times for 279 yards last season and scored five touchdowns on the ground. His accuracy was terrible in the preseason - only 50 percent - but last year he completed 64.5 percent of his throws. That's nearly 5 percentage points higher than Alex Smith.

The bigger factor is opportunity. There are two rookies behind Smith, and Kaepernick - while still very much the team's future quarterback - struggled at times in the preseason.

What would happen to newly signed rookie Scott Tolzien if the 49ers signed Garrard? I'd imagine the 49ers would release him with the intention of moving him to the practice squad. He'd then have to decide whether he was better off on the 49ers practice squad this season or the Chargers, where he spent training camp. Unlike San Francisco, the Chargers did not use a second-round pick on a quarterback, so it seems like an easy choice.

One more note of interest. Josh McCown, who spent part of August with the 49ers, also came out in the 2002. He was drafted by Arizona in the third round. It's not known where Harbaugh had him rated.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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