Garcia and Rattay: Like Night and Day

Nov 6, 2003 at 12:00 AM


Ok, ill admit it. I'm guilty. I thought that the 49ers were going to be humiliated at Candlestick on Sunday against the Rams. I thought a victory was ruled out when the starting quarterback was ruled out of the game with a high ankle sprain. But pessimistic me, I went one step further and began pontificating on the end of the season. The only question in my mind was "Top 10 or top 15 pick?"

Then, like a superhero sent from krypton in a pod with a big, red "SF" cape spread across the hood, came the teams' savior. No, Aliens did not find a way to genetically engineer Joe Montana clones.

The season has been up and down, pummeling Tampa Bay one week, and then losing to a minor league football team in Arizona. The roller coaster ride that has become the 49ers season can be traced back to one individual, Jeff Garcia.

Sure you could make the argument that the problem is the kicking game. After all, many of the losses have been by a field goal or less. But for those people who believe that, I ask you this: Should the game in Arizona have come down to the kicking game? Should the 49ers explosive offense scored against Cleveland? The kicking game didn't matter against the Bears, and it didn't matter against the Rams this past Sunday.

From the beginning of the season, injuries hampered Garcia. First his back, then his groin, then his ankle; if one looked hard enough one could almost see Garcia crumbling like a stale gingerbread man right before their very eyes. This has contributed to his poor overall performance. In the 49ers five loses, Jeff Garcia's average quarterback rating is 63.6. To put that in perspective, Drew Brees (with 7 TDs and 12 INTs) has a quarterback rating of 63.3 this season.

However, in the 3 wins that Garcia had a role in, his average QB rating is 86.4. Notable in this is that two of those wins were against the lowly Lions, and the Bears. In his previous seasons, Garcia did not take over many games, with a few notable exceptions (the Raiders overtime win last season for example) but he never cost the 49ers a game. He played error free football. This season, Garcia has thrown an interception almost every game.

Is Garcia just another streaking comet from the same universe as the Two-Year-Wonder Warner? I think it's too early to pass judgment on that. What is apparent, however, is that Rattay give the 49ers a batter chance to win. Not because Rattay is a better quarterback, but simply because the 49ers head coach is Dennis Erickson.

Having Garcia try to run Erickson's offense is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Garcia is a prototypical west-coast quarterback. He is mobile, smart, and dependent on rhythm. When Garcia gets into his grove, there are few that are better. But Erickson is not a west-coast coach. He likes to run one back sets, he likes to run two tight end sets, and he likes to run spread formations. He doesn't contrive his plays based on rhythm or ball control; he gears his plays toward hitting whoever is open for the quick strike. His plays are geared towards getting the ball down field. From the beginning of the season we were told that Garcia could check to a down-field pass if he saw man-to-man coverage on Owens. But what good is that audible is the quarterback can't get him the ball because of his lack of arm strength? Garcia can make the throws, and he has before, but he can't do it on a consistent basis.

Enter Rattay, the strong-armed, accurate, stoic backup. So far this season, he has completed 64.7% of his passes in games against St. Louis, Minnesota, and Arizona. His lone interception came on a play where he was hit as he threw thus causing the ball to float in the air and fall into the hands of a St. Louis linebacker. His QB rating is 104.2 and his three touchdown passes were the most in one game by the 49ers all season.

What impressed me more than anything else about Rattay was his accuracy. He was able to get the ball to T.O. in the midst of three defenders with a perfect arcing pass from five yards away. I just don't think that Garcia would have thrown the ball, let alone completed it. He threw the ball to spots where only the receiver could catch the ball. He even rolled out once and showed that he can be "mobile" even though he looked like a lumbering, slow-moving oversized roll of quarters. Rattay is the equivalent of the 49ers round peg for the square hole Erickson created. Rattay has the tools to function in Erickson's offense. He makes smart quick decisions, he is accurate on the long ball, he has better touch than Garcia, but more importantly, he can spread the ball around.

Fred Beasley, the fullback, was the leading receiver in the win against St. Louis with a whopping 46 yards. Yet Rattay still threw for 236, and his per pass average was 8.14. Garcia's per pass average is 6.48. Owens only had two receptions, but he left the locker room with a smile on his face. Everyone was happy.

After the game rookie wide receiver Brandon Lloyd said, "Tim's the kind of guy who doesn't get too high or he doesn't get too low. He walks off the field after an interception like he walks off the field (following) a touchdown. He's an even keel guy on run plays or pass plays."

And perhaps that's what this team needs, someone who isn't as volatile as the manic-depressive Garcia. When Mariucci was the coach of this team, the talent level and inexperience was such that the team had to play with a heightened sense of emotion because it gave the team that little extra something to make up for the lack in ability and experience. Now that the team has the talent and the experience to make a serious playoff run, volatility only breeds discontent. Case in point is Owens' outbursts after the losses as Minnesota and Cleveland.

This team has to make the decision that gives the team the best chance to win. Garcia is not a bad quarterback, but because of the new head coach coupled with Garcia's declining health, Rattay has to be the captain that brings this team out of the mired, opaque existence it now toils in. Rattay will bring this team wins, he will take the team to daylight.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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