The Top-5 49ers Quarterbacks Post-Steve Young
When the 49ers selected Trey Lance with the #3 overall pick last week, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan signaled to the fan base that they had found their franchise quarterback for the next decade plus.
Franchise quarterbacks were a normal thing for the 49ers pre-2000. From former league MVP John Brodie to hall of famers Y.A. Tittle, Joe Montana, and Steve Young, the 49ers were synonymous with top-tier quarterback talent.
Young’s career came to an unfortunate end during a Week 3 Monday Night Football game in Arizona, and since that fateful night, the 49ers have had 16 (!) different players start behind Center. From #1 overall picks to Sacramento-area standouts to CFL All-Stars, the 49ers have had a pupu platter of starting QB’s.
Let’s take a look at the five best since Steve Young.
***Editors Note: this list takes into account the quarterbacks career in SF only***
5. Shaun Hill
The 12-year journeyman spent 3 seasons in San Francisco, starting 16 games and compiling a respectable 10-6 record in those starts. Former head coach Mike Singletary named Hill the starting quarterback to start the 2009 season, and despite an excellent start to the year, Hill faded and and was benched in the second-half of a Week 7 match-up with Houston. Hill never got the starting job back, and left after the season for Detroit, where he spent the next 4 seasons, followed by stints in St. Louis and Minnesota.
4. Alex Smith
The 2005 #1 overall pick was tasked with being the next franchise quarterback for the 49ers. Smith’s first six seasons in San Francisco were less than ideal, as injuries and a carousel of offensive coordiators made it impossible for Smith to find any consistancy.
It wasn’t until the 2011 hiring of head coach Jim Harbaugh that Smith began to turn it around, going 19-5-1 with a passer rating of 95.1 and TD/INT ratio of 3-1 over the next season and a half. Smith would get hurt midway through the 2012 season, eventually losing his starting job to backup Colin Kaepernick.
Smith would be traded in the offseason to Kansas City, where he enjoyed 3 Pro-Bowl appearances in 5 seasons under offensive guru Andy Reid.
3. Colin Kaepernick
A 2011 second-round pick out of the University of Nevada, Reno, Kaepernick would be thrust into the starting lineup after Alex Smith went down in Week 10 of the 2012 season.
In his next seven starts, Kaepernick would go 5-2 with a 98.3 passer rating. Kaepernick played so well that head coach Jim Harbaugh elected to stick with him after Alex Smith had recovered from injury. Kapernick led the 49ers into Super Bowl XLVII, falling a yard short of the 49ers first Super Bowl win since the 1994 season. Over the next four seasons, Kaepernick would play for three head coaches, compiling a 23-28 record with 62 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. Kaepernick opted out of is contract after 2016, a season in which he started 10 games and had his higest passer rating since 2012 (90.7).
That season, however, would best be remembered for Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem to bring awareness to police brutality and racial injustice. The polarizing Kaepernick has not played an NFL game since 2016.
2. Jimmy Garappolo
Coming over to a winless 49ers team midway through the 2017 season, the former New England Patriots backup was given the starting job in Week 13, finishing the season 5-0 and cementing himself as the teams quarterback of the future, signing a 5-year, $137.5 million contract in the offseason.
Injuries limited Garoppolo to just 3 games in the 2018 season, but a breakout 2019 season saw Garoppolo start all 16 games for San Francisco, compiling a 13-3 record, with a passer rating of 102.0 and winning the Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year award and taking the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, losing narrowly to the Chiefs 31-20.
Another injury prone season in 2020 led the 49ers to draft North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance with the #3 overall pick in the 2021 draft, with expectations that he will replace Garoppolo at some point over the next couple seasons.
1. Jeff Garcia
A four-time CFL All-Star, Garcia was signed in 1999 to backup Steve Young.
Garcia would take over after Young suffered a career-ending concussion in a Week 3 Monday Night Football game against the Cardinals. Garcia was inconsistent in his first season, even prompting head coach Steve Mariucci to bench him for three games in favor of journeyman Steve Stenstrom. The next four seasons would be much more successful for Garcia, going to three straight Pro-Bowls (2000-2002), and leading the 49ers to their last playoff appearance before the 2011 season in 2002.
Drama with star receiver Terrell Owens helped lead the 49ers to release Garcia after the 2003 season. Garcia would play for four teams over the next six seasons, returning to the Pro Bowl one last time in 2007 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.