Marcio Jose Sanchez-AP

Marcio Jose Sanchez-AP



On April 24, 1987, the Bill Walsh traded two draft picks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for quarterback Steve Young. Walsh may have had a multitude of reasons for landing Young, such as Joe Montana's bad back or maybe he saw the talent Young had that the Buccaneers apparently missed. Walsh went as far as benching Montana during the 1987 divisional playoff loss to Minnesota.

The 1988 season started off with Walsh feeding the controversy he started with pure nitroglycerine.

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"Well our strength is at quarterback," said Walsh in a television interview on July 31, 1988. "But our problem is we have two. There's a quarterback controversy developing. We're going to have to select between Steve Young and Joe Montana."

Later in the season, Walsh claimed that Montana wasn't playing because "He had a form of dysentery for about 2 weeks," Walsh said. "He lost 11 pounds. From that point on, he was weak. Very weak. He has not been able to throw as much and as well as we would like."

It was a psychologist-gone-mad move from Walsh, and it drove Montana to some of his best years with the 49ers. Montana made back-to-back first team All-Pro in 1989 and 1990 and was named league MVP in 1989.

We saw a similar situation play out at quarterback just a few years ago. Before Jim Harbaugh, Alex Smith had a career record of 19-31. In 2011, whether due to Harbaugh's coaching style or the threat of losing his starting position to rookie Colin Kaepernick, Smith had a career changing year: 13 wins, a huge divisional playoff win against New Orleans and a trip to the NFC Championship game.

What drives success is competition, no matter if it's in the corporate world or on the football field. This year's roster certainly has potential for fierce competition for starting roles, but not at quarterback.

On May 19, head coach Kyle Shanahan, while on the Rich Eisen Show, named Brian Hoyer as the 49ers' starter. "Right now, Brian Hoyer is going to be at the controls."

Hoyer comes to Santa Clara with a 16-15 career record, including ten career wins for the Cleveland Browns. He completes nearly 60-percent of his throws, has 44 touchdown passes and averages 7.2 yards gained per pass attempt. Pro Football Focus gives him an 81.1 ranking coming into this season.

Despite injuries and some time on the bench, Hoyer's shown moments of high-quality play. Through the first ten weeks of the 2014 season, Hoyer had a 10:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and had the Browns off to a 6-3 start. He's perfect for the 49ers this season: a serviceable journeyman quarterback running a familiar offense, with a team not expected to eclipse the .500 mark.

What the 49ers need going into minicamp and the 2017 season is an old fashioned Bill Walsh quarterback controversy. An actual challenge from Matt Barkley and CJ Beathard for the starting role would make Hoyer a better quarterback come September.

But here's the rub: Matt Barkley has had an underwhelming NFL career, and Beathard isn't ready to threaten a veteran for a starting job.

49er fans can feel the dawn of a new sun radiating from 4949 Centennial Boulevard. The team is doing things differently. They've ended the leaks to the media, and they've sought out real talent. Eleven-year veteran Joe Staley stated players have come into the offseason programs with "excitedness – that's not a word – and real vigor."

Even with the new leadership and direction, the 49ers retreated to a Baalke-esque strategy: bring in sub-par talent to fill a critical position. They've done this repeatedly with offensive linemen, and now the symptom is bleeding into the quarterback's spot.

In four professional seasons, Barkley hasn't come anywhere close to being a serviceable backup or legitimately competing for a starting role. While completing 60-percent of his throws, Barkley has eight touchdown passes compared to 18 interceptions. He's only played in 11 games and made six starts. Barkley seems content to be back in the warm California sun, rather than a warrior who wants to destroy the competition and achieve football immortality.

CJ Beathard could be a fantastic draft pick for the 49ers, so long as they can develop him over the next two seasons. Throwing Beathard into the flames of an NFL regular season game is not a wise move. However, I would not be shocked to see him outplay Barkley in the preseason to earn the second-string role on the team.

The 49ers signed undrafted free agent Nick Mullens shortly after the draft. At 6'1, 187 pounds, and scouting reports stating he lacks arm strength, his greatest obstacle is to make the practice squad.

The 49ers are asking other players, such as NaVorro Bowman, to earn first team honors. Last week, regarding Bowman, Shanahan said that "Nobody is locked in at anything." Shanahan went further and said, "It's something you'd actually like to have at every position… That makes the two guys who are out there go a lot harder and play better."

Teams don't have the luxury of having All-Pro players at every position, dashing pure male fury to achieve a seat at the first-team table. Coaches must play the hand dealt, and some spots may lack a real competition. However, in a position that's been inconsistent since 2015, the offense will end up in a better spot, and more prepared for week one, if Shanahan opened the quarterback spot up for a training camp battle.