For the last month, the 49ers have been saying they have one of the best quarterback situations in the NFL. That situation will get significantly thinner on March 12 when they officially trade No. 2 quarterback Alex Smith to Kansas City.
And that begs the question: Who is the 49ers' backup quarterback going to be?
The answer for the short term is Scott Tolzien, who spent the 2012 season as the No. 3 quarterback. The 49ers for two years have raved about Tolzien's smarts and work ethic, and he certainly will be thrown into the mix for 2013.
Tolzien was active for two games last season - once when punter Andy Lee was dealing with a broken thumb and there were questions whether he could hold on field goals and extra points - and he has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season game. The 49ers' offense certainly would not be as multidimensional under Tolzien as it is with starter Colin Kaepernick. Tolzien is a pocket passer who ran for minus-30 yards his final year at Wisconsin.
Before the season, Tolzien beat out Josh Johnson for the No. 3 position, and it's possible that Johnson could be back in the fold as well. He's now on the Browns roster but is poised to become a free agent on March 12.
It's also possible that the 49ers use one of their 15 draft picks on a quarterback.
After Smith had two of the best seasons of his career and after Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, San Francisco's decision makers have to be very confident in their ability not only to identify quality passers but to develop them. This is generally considered a weak draft for quarterbacks, especially at the top of the draft. However, there is talent, and some passers, like Florida State's E.J. Manuel, seem to have the attributes to make that happen.
- Matt Barrows