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Josh Johnson, Colin Kaepernick could be 49ers’ 2012 quarterbacks


If the worst-case scenario plays out for the 49ers, and Alex Smith signs elsewhere while they also lose the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, they’ll be facing a dilemma: What does a team do when it has Super Bowl talent but doesn’t have a quarterback?

For the 49ers, the answer may be they sign free agent Josh Johnson, and have him compete in training camp with last year’s second-round pick, Colin Kaepernick.

Johnson, a free agent who has played his entire four-year career in Tampa Bay, played for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. He’s a phenomenal athlete but hasn’t proven he can be an NFL passer, with just five touchdown passes and ten interceptions in his career. However, Harbaugh may be able to cut way down on those interceptions by turning Johnson into a safe and careful passer, as Harbaugh did with Smith last season, and Peter King writes today that Johnson in San Francisco is a real possibility if both Manning and Smith end up elsewhere.

The 49ers liked Kaepernick enough last year to take him with the 36th overall pick in the NFL draft, and Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle writes today that the starting job may end up falling into Kaepernick’s lap.

Johnson and Kaepernick are a couple of young, talented quarterbacks the 49ers like, and there are worse things than going into training camp with a couple of young, talented quarterbacks you like. But the 49ers want to win now, not build for the future. So if the 49ers end up signing neither Manning nor Smith and only signing Johnson, it would be hard not to view that as a failure.

The 49ers, however, don’t hold all the cards here. And if Manning and Smith decide to go elsewhere, Johnson and Kaepernick may be the best the 49ers can do.

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69 Responses to “Josh Johnson, Colin Kaepernick could be 49ers’ 2012 quarterbacks”
  1. mikebe1 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:19 AM

    Good thing for them is anyone can replace alex smith and perform equally or better then he did in the nfc champ gm.

  2. davidpcoelho says: Mar 19, 2012 11:19 AM

    Alex Smith is not your “win now” QB. One great game against the Saints does not make up for seven crap years.

    Hard to imagine another QB playing with the field position that defense gives you cannot rack up more than 3,000 yards in the year.

  3. 7ransponder says: Mar 19, 2012 11:19 AM

    What an ugly reality to have to face.

  4. buccaneer4ever says: Mar 19, 2012 11:19 AM

    As a die hard Buccaneer fan, I can tell you that Johnson is perfectly serviceable. Drafted by Gruden and ignored by Raheem, the kid is a top-notch athlete with above-average arm strength. He could be a starter with the right coaching staff.

  5. jeremywflores says: Mar 19, 2012 11:20 AM

    Pretty intriguing if Colin becomes the starting QB. Dude has the athleticism, the arm and can run it.

  6. mrplow3 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:20 AM

    Didn’t Harbaugh hold a private workout last year for Daunte Culpepper that he described as going “great”?

    What a great comeback player of the year story that would be.

  7. cali49er707 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:20 AM

    hasslebak or smith because,smith is smart enough to wait it out & not rush to join dolphins, & NO THANKS on TEBOW!!!

  8. mrplow3 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:21 AM


    Not to mention the Moss to Culpepper connection that I completely forgot about.

  9. discosucs2005 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:21 AM

    It only makes sense for Smith to go anywhere else if Manning signs in SF. Unless of course his ego is bruised that he’d rather be a backup else where.

  10. dv5454 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:22 AM

    I would honestly be shocked if this scenario plays out this way – I’m not a 49ers fan – I just don’t see it happening.

    With that said. . . Imagine the look on Randy Moss’ face if it did…I like Randy, but if this happened, locker room meals would be the least of his concern.

  11. smcgaels1997 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:22 AM

    Kap or Johnson could lead the O to 29th in the league as Smith did

  12. mobuccsfan says: Mar 19, 2012 11:22 AM

    Johnson and Kaepernick in San Fran.
    Smith to Miami
    Flynn is in Seattle.
    Browns or Dolphins will draft Tannehill (sp?)
    Broncos take a couple QBs in the draft.
    Hasselbeck plays one more season and leads the Titans to respectable 9-7 mark but they miss the post-season.
    And Peyton Manning….retires!

  13. CKL says: Mar 19, 2012 11:22 AM

    I like CK a bunch but he could probably use another year behind a vet, much like Locker could.

  14. monsterscream says: Mar 19, 2012 11:22 AM

    Kaepernick 2 Moss? Yea Randy will love this…

  15. rgiii2dc says: Mar 19, 2012 11:23 AM


  16. epping16 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:24 AM

    I posted this exact thing months ago. In fact, I’d go a step farther and say that Johnson is a BETTER fit for the 49ers than Alex Smith. I find it hard to believe Johnson couldn’t be a solid game manager like Smith was last year. Difference would be, Johnson has MUCH higher upside than anything Smith can bring to the table.

    Obviously, they’ll probably bring Smith back if they can, but Johnson would be a really good fit for the 49ers and Harbaugh’s system. I don’t think it would break any hearts at all if Alex Smith moved on. There are other options out there.

  17. ttommytom says: Mar 19, 2012 11:24 AM

    The NY Giants were a Super Bowl team BECAUSE of their QB.

    The 49’rs are a (potential) Super Bowl team DESPITE their QB.

    I’d be a bit depressed to have the best car in town and have the worst driver operating it.

    A great driver can win with an average car. An average driver usually gets stuck in traffic.

    An inexperience driver? Waste of a great car…

  18. ern215 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:25 AM

    i said way back in october that josh johnson will be with the 49ers in 2012, josh is from my neighborhood (oakland) and it is a dream fit for both parties involved.

  19. bearsrulepackdrool says: Mar 19, 2012 11:26 AM

    49ers Super Bowl aspirations just took a shot to the gut.

  20. darrelb says: Mar 19, 2012 11:27 AM

    If neither Manning nor Smith sign in SF we may not need a book titled, “The Genius II”. Somebody has been reading his own press clippings.

  21. brutus9448 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:27 AM

    if manning doesn’t go to the niners smith will sign there. He’s already said as much

  22. 49erstim says: Mar 19, 2012 11:30 AM

    That would be disastrous. While we also have Tolzien, I wouldn’t be comfortable with either 3 having to deal with the twin divas in Moss and Manningham.

  23. thermalito says: Mar 19, 2012 11:31 AM

    The 49ers are automatically better by subtracting Smith.

  24. mvp43 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:33 AM

    I’m surprised the 49ers are taking this big of a risk. Smith looked pretty good last year and will only be better this year. Even if they sign Manning, there’s no guarantee he will be healthy. I would roll the dice with Smith.

  25. sammythebull44 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:35 AM

    6-10 baby!

  26. mikeinfected says: Mar 19, 2012 11:36 AM

    @ ttommytom

    You forgot great, average, inexperienced or worst…no-one wins with David Carr.

  27. sanfran49707 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:36 AM

    Either,Kapernick Or Johnson Lets See How Bout Neither…Kap’s Not The Answer And Nor Is Johnson We Will Resign Smith If We Dont Get Peyton Nobody Wants Alex Smith Bsides Us

  28. klunge says: Mar 19, 2012 11:39 AM

    davidpcoelho says:
    Mar 19, 2012 11:19 AM
    Alex Smith…Hard to imagine another QB playing with the field position that defense gives you cannot rack up more than 3,000 yards in the year.

    Actually the great field position provided by the defense is part of the reason the yardage total is low. The telling statistic however, is the pathetic TD total of only 17, despite being in the red zone constantly. Akers can thank Smith for giving him the NFL record for field goals in a season.

  29. brenenostler says: Mar 19, 2012 11:40 AM

    Anyone who thinks Josh Johnson would be good for San Fran clearly didn’t watch him play when he started for Tampa in 2009. I dont think he even won a game.

  30. thraiderskin says: Mar 19, 2012 11:40 AM

    Eh.. While initially I thought it would be too funny, I’d like to see what both these guys look like as a starter.

  31. hot97x says: Mar 19, 2012 11:41 AM

    why doesn’t this site repot that the SF press democrat has already reported that Alex Smith has said he will wait until Manning makes his decision? there is ZERO chance that the Niners don’t end up with Manning or Smith.

  32. willyalistentothis says: Mar 19, 2012 11:44 AM

    Although at below a second tier level, Josh Johnson had video game stats in college. 43TD passes v. 1 INT his senior year (113 v. 15 career). Under Harbaugh again, he could be a very serviceable option.

  33. cactusranger71 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:46 AM


    Smith said he’d sign w/ SF if Manning doesn’t? Link plese

  34. joe3001 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:46 AM

    If Manning doesn’t go to the 49ers, I think its more likely he chooses the Titans over the Broncos.

    In that case – Matt Hasselbeck, an expert in the WCO system – would be available.

    Call me crazy – but I think the 49ers would sign him over Josh Johnson if they want to win a Super Bowl this year.

  35. musicman495 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:46 AM

    Kaepernick looked completely clueless during last preseason – another Tebow who wants to run 90% of the time, with perhaps slightly better accuracy.

  36. dawsonleery says: Mar 19, 2012 11:47 AM

    Back to 5-11.. Good job.

  37. tatum064 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:49 AM

    Would be ironic to lose out on Smith AND Manning, but Smith got an offer, he just wouldn’t sign it, and he may end up taking less in Miami for a worse owner and GM.


  38. mercurialcj says: Mar 19, 2012 11:52 AM

    If is does happen this way, I’d draft Brandon Weeden if I were them. They don’t have a whole lot of holes, so I’d grab Wallace from the Steelers, and draft Brandon Weeden late second. Weeden has the arm to go deep to Wallace.

  39. marissa227 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:52 AM

    My boy adam would love this… lol

  40. pitchblack816 says: Mar 19, 2012 11:52 AM

    I say let Jim dust off the old cleats. He did conduct the try-out for Moss. Just saying…….

  41. randygnyc says: Mar 19, 2012 11:54 AM

    I cant imagine Manning signing in San Fran-sicko. He’s just using the threat of going to this modern day Sodom and Gommorah to get better offers from normal cities.

  42. westclaims says: Mar 19, 2012 11:59 AM

    Just now hearing that Manning is going with the Broncos. HILARIOUS!!!!! Looks like the Niners either get Smith back (pissed off now), or the two mentioned in this article. What a great day. Plus, religious boy is out in Denver. Just too funny.

  43. nineroutsider says: Mar 19, 2012 12:00 PM

    I had to stop reading when it mentioned losing Alex Smith. That guy isn’t going anywhere till Peyton signs. If Peyton doesn’t choose the 9ers Smith will be in the office so fast signing that deal the 9ers won’t even have time to consider who might be better than him.

  44. gb4mn0 says: Mar 19, 2012 12:01 PM

    Sounds like Kapernick is going to get his chance. The news just broke that PM is signing with the Broncos. I hope that means Skip Bayless is let go by the mother-ship.

  45. sanfran49707 says: Mar 19, 2012 12:01 PM

    Peyton Is signing Wit The Bronocs Breaking News And Tebow Will Be Traded…..So Now We Can Resign Alex Smith And Maybe Get Wallace And Draft Alshon Jeffries

  46. saints25 says: Mar 19, 2012 12:02 PM

    LMFAO….Welcome back Alex Smith? Sign with the Dolphins Alex….:-)

  47. twinfan1 says: Mar 19, 2012 12:03 PM

    “Kap or Johnson could lead the O to 29th in the league as Smith did…”
    If you only measure the passing game in yards, that’s possibly true. Add 15 turnovers to the Kappy line-
    6 wins 10 losses.
    You can always identify a Smith hater when we hear this 29th BS. It’s like measuring a baseball pitcher by W-L only. The 49ers had the 9th most efficent passing game in the NFL…
    Anyway, as 49er writer Kevin Lynch wrote:
    “Smith is a healthy, ascending QB, while the 36-year-old Manning is an injured, descending player. “

  48. eknirb says: Mar 19, 2012 12:03 PM

    ESPN reports Manning has told agent to negotiate directly with the Broncos.

    We’re sunk.

  49. ninersforlife15 says: Mar 19, 2012 12:03 PM

    Everyone who thinks that Alex Smith isn’t a good quarterback or if it was his fault we lost the NFC Championship know nothing about football and should just shut up cause you sound arrogant and dumb. Go TRULY look a his numbers in his career and couple that with the fact that he is a very intelligent QB who never had a TRUE QB coach, always had a defensive minded head coach (who couldn’t even spell offense), and never had the weapons that an Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, or even Matthew Stafford has. Now he has Harabaugh (an offensive minded coach, who use to play QB), and we sign Randy Moss (deep threat) and Mario Manningham (good, young, slot WR) to help with our passing game. He played QB efficiently for us in 2011, with a QB friendly offense and no off season, and we came with in a drive of the Superbowl. Now he gets an off season and all these weapons and no one wants to see what he can do? That is just sad. I hope the 49ers pull out of the Manning chase and lock Smith up and watch him turn into a pro bowler. His road in the NFL has not been easy but he has seen it all and has tough skin. That’s the kind of guy I want playing QB. A guy who puts the team first, sacrifices his body for the good of the team, always has a positive attitude, and doesnt make mistakes. He is a great talent that has gotten a bad rap.

  50. prplpuzzetrz says: Mar 19, 2012 12:05 PM

    Stupid moves,
    Alex smith is way better than josh Johnson and Colin is not ready yet!
    I hope the arrogance backs them into a corner.

  51. youngblood37 says: Mar 19, 2012 12:07 PM

    Hahahahaha…sorry fortywhiners…start looking in the discount bins

  52. moffatyuan says: Mar 19, 2012 12:09 PM

    why u copy idea from King, just for more comment, c’on!

  53. nowillrepeat says: Mar 19, 2012 12:10 PM

    Honestly, and I hate the 49ners, but I dont understand why Manning wouldnt sign there if the price is right (and that will be tough).

    They really do have a lot of nice pieces and a good coach (who i also dont care much for).

    If this happens the nfc will be loaded

  54. trollhammer20 says: Mar 19, 2012 12:17 PM

    I don’t get it. Smith only throws five picks the entire season, has virtually no WR corps to speak of, and Niner fans in this thread are ready to throw him under the bus.

    He beat the Saints in the playoffs with two late drives for TDs, and nearly beats the Giants in spite of his WRs only having one catch for three yards. Crabtree played most of the playoffs like someone who had his hands amputated, and who was on the other side? Brett Swain?

    A couple of WRs added and Smith fully in the fold could have pushed the Niners over the top. Now they may have to gamble with someone with fewer career starts than Matt Flynn. Even if Smith returns, there’s some potential for bad blood in that locker room. Throw in a guy who goes from hero to malcontent in 0.2 seconds (Moss), and you’ve got the potential for some serious drama.

  55. besdayz says: Mar 19, 2012 12:29 PM

    Good luck getting Moss to be patient with Josh Johnson or the rookie.

    How to derail a superbowl team
    -signed Jim Harbaugh

  56. thatmulekicks says: Mar 19, 2012 12:30 PM


    A potential SB contender to a playoff hopeful all in one weekend.

    The 49ers finally get to a point where they can manipulate Alex Smith’s skills and they might lose him. He has to be pissed at how this was handled.

    Just shows you, there are some details that you have to get done. Looks like Harbaugh got some bad intel on how “badly” Manning wanted to play for the 49ers.

    Not a Niners fan but I can feel that loss.

  57. armchairqb says: Mar 19, 2012 12:39 PM

    Who’s more screwed than the Niners? Noooooooobody.

  58. scottdragosnai says: Mar 19, 2012 12:48 PM

    SF just got hoodwinked, what a headache.
    Rolling into camp with those guys at QB and no Smith is a huge gamble.
    Scott Dragos NAI

  59. glazerh8er says: Mar 19, 2012 12:56 PM

    If I were I Niners fan I would be flipping my turds. A. Smith had you in the game!!!!! Look on the bright side, Josh Johnson had perfect statistics in DII football.

  60. bozosforall says: Mar 19, 2012 1:05 PM

    glazerh8er says:
    Mar 19, 2012 12:56 PM
    Look on the bright side, Josh Johnson had perfect statistics in DII football.

    So did Ben Roethlisburger….

    Two SB wins later, he gets the last laugh.

  61. bozosforall says: Mar 19, 2012 1:05 PM

    youngblood37 says:
    Mar 19, 2012 12:07 PM
    Hahahahaha…sorry fortywhiners…start looking in the discount bins

    David Garrard to groom Colin Kaepernick.

  62. willisaldon9952 says: Mar 19, 2012 1:07 PM


    Looks like the Niners think just like you do!!!!!!! Now the Niners might have nothing to fall back on lulz. Now hopefully you will see what ive been saying to you for the last month! And go ahead and delete my posts like you been doing, coward!

  63. glazerh8er says: Mar 19, 2012 1:15 PM

    bozosforall says:
    Mar 19, 2012 1:05 PM
    glazerh8er says:
    Mar 19, 2012 12:56 PM
    Look on the bright side, Josh Johnson had perfect statistics in DII football.

    So did Ben Roethlisburger….

    Two SB wins later, he gets the last laugh.

    Miami of Ohio (where Big Ben played) is a DI football team in the Mid-American Conference. Next year they play teams such as Ohio State and Boise State.

  64. briank1ne says: Mar 19, 2012 1:20 PM

    doesnt matter who is at qb. this defense is so good it will score more than some and all 11 of them are back.

  65. johninthewest says: Mar 19, 2012 1:27 PM

    Harbaugh is an egotistical moron. If it aint broke don’t fix it. I hope Smith goes elsewhere! 9ers had this coming.

  66. hot97x says: Mar 19, 2012 1:55 PM

    are you guys mentally challenged? Alex Smith already said he will be signing back with the niners if Peyton doesn’t sign there. good luck next year with all 11 starters on a nasty defense back and the offense actually has some weapons and an offseason to get ready.

    as for the thought that Colin Kaepernick is another Tebow, get real. the guy has the strongest arm of any QB at the combine last year, and his working with a QB genius who hand picked him to be is QB of the future. if he had to start this year he would do the same thing Alex did last year, which was just don’t screw up and the defense and special teams will usually win the game.

  67. trojan33sc says: Mar 19, 2012 2:53 PM

    If Colin get’s playing time even if Alex resigns with the 49’res he will be the next Matt Flynn. Colin throws a TON along with having speed.

  68. brino111 says: Mar 20, 2012 11:55 AM

    Opposed to what a lot may think.. Colin does not have the nfl arm. That said, either does Tolzien. Though Tolzien has proven (last year against the 49ers) that he is very capable of leadin a team down field. Colin cannot. His athleticism gets in the way. He also barely fits the system. Tolzien fits it much nicer.

  69. nyyankeedave says: Mar 20, 2012 1:17 PM

    Jimmy Dixx and Willy Beeman are available…

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