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October 3, 2013
Dissecting a QB decision: What was Harbaugh thinking when he added Skelton?


Jim Harbaugh is the quarterback whisperer, the man who discovered Josh Johnson, who built Andrew Luck and who resurrected Alex Smith. His instincts regarding all things quarterback have been spot on since he became a head coach.

By all accounts, the decision to sign John Skelton and expose rookie B.J. Daniels was Harbaugh's. He's built up so much quarterback credit, we have to assume he's doing the right thing for the team.

But we don't have to buy his explanation.

Harbaugh said Skelton was added to the mix because the 49ers needed a veteran backup with the starting experience, which Daniels, being a seventh-round draft pick, did not have.

But the 49ers already had a veteran backup in Colt McCoy.

Most teams that keep three quarterbacks on the roster have a starter, a backup and a young player they try to develop. The 49ers had that exact dynamic, but Harbaugh wasn't content. The irony, of course, is that he wasn't unhappy with the quarterback who was jettisoned, Daniels, but with McCoy, the guy who remains in the No. 2 spot.

The late-August quarterback competition between McCoy and Scott Tolzien, the signing of Seneca Wallace, the restructuring of McCoy's contract and now this, the addition of Skelton, all point to one thing - Harbaugh is uneasy with the prospect of McCoy running the team if something were to happen to starter Colin Kaepernick.

Harbaugh and the 49ers wanted to add Daniels to the practice squad before the Seahawks snatched him away yesterday. Not only that, they would have given him his full, active-roster pay while he was on the practice squad. (Which would have encouraged him not to jump to another team's 53-man roster).

The plan appears to have been to allow Skelton to learn the offense, and once he did have him compete for the No. 2 job. After that occurred, either McCoy or Skelton would have been cut and Daniels added back to the 53-man roster.

With that the 49ers would again have had the ideal quarterback dynamic - starter, backup, developmental player - but Harbaugh would have been more content with the quarterback playing behind Kaepernick.

- 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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