San Francisco needed another body after watching journeyman Thad Lewis go down with a season-ending ACL tear. Colin Kaepernick, meanwhile, is dealing with a “dead arm” and hasn’t thrown a pass at practice in six days.
Kaepernick didn’t dress in Sunday night’s preseason loss to the Texans, leaving presumptive starter Blaine Gabbert, Lewis and rookie Jeff Driskel to deal with Houston’s defense.
Watson, Trubisky, Kizer and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes are regarded as the draft’s top four quarterback prospects. Which will be selected first, however, is a tough projection. NFL.com analyst David Carr wrote last week that Trubisky is the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft. NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock ranks Kizer, because of his long-term potential, as the best of the group, while NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly projects Watson as the first QB selected, to the Chiefs at No. 27 overall.
Of those four clubs, the 49ers have the greatest immediate need for a quarterback, though the Bills, Cardinals and Chiefs could be interested in a rookie quarterback to develop as a starter for the future. Clubs are known for misdirection at this time of year to cloud their draft intentions, but Pegula’s presence at the workouts of Trubisky and cheap jerseys and Kizer would suggest a credible level of seriousness in the former Tar Heels star by the Bills.
Even before the 49ers released star outside linebacker Aldon Smith in the wake of yet another off-the-field issue, this wasn’t a team that was going to be carried by its defense. That unit already had been leveled by the losses of retiring players like Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Chris Borland. Linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks are the only remaining defensive starters from the 49ers’ Super Bowl team of 2012, which means it’s time for the offense to pick up the slack.
This isn’t solely about the maturation of beleaguered star quarterback Colin Kaepernick, either. It’s about a unit that lost its identity last season — when it ranked 25th in the league in scoring (at 19.1 points per game) and 30th in passing offense (191.4 yards per game) — and sorely needs to establish a more effective one this year.
After two 10-win seasons in Philadelphia, it all came crashing down on Kelly in 2015 after he wrestled personnel control away from the front office. Several of his headline-making moves backfired, including shipping LeSean McCoy out of town and signing DeMarco Murray.
In San Francisco, Kelly will not have personnel control, with general manager Trent Baalke entrenched. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport said on NFL Network on Thursday that not having control is OK with Kelly, adding that the coach “learned his lesson with the Eagles” and is going to focus on coaching.
Tomsula, a longtime defensive line coach, wasn’t a conventional choice for the head coaching job after Harbaugh left last season. But he’s essentially getting fired for the failures of 49ers management over the last few years. Owner Jed York did not mention the fate of general manager Trent Baalke in his statement.
“Jimmy has been a valuable member of the 49ers organization for the last nine years,” said York. “We all know he is a man of high character, and his contributions on the field and in our community have always been greatly appreciated. This entire organization is proud and grateful to have worked so closely alongside Jimmy. We all wish him and his family great success in the future.”