When I wrote a post over the weekend about possible options for the San Francisco 49ers as they look to add a third quarterback, Pat White did not come up. His name wasn’t on any of the 2013 free agent master lists I checked, which makes sense because he hasn’t played since 2009 and has never completed a pass in the NFL.
White is a certified bust, a quarterback who was drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins. But his athleticism and college stats were top notch a few years ago, and he’s only 27. White rushed for at least 952 yards in each of his four years as the starter at West Virginia, finishing with 4,480 yards and 47 touchdowns on the ground. White’s arm was pretty productive as well in Morgantown — he completed 64.8% of his passes for 6,049 yards with 56 TD and 23 INT.
College resume aside, this came as a bit of a surprise:
As USA Today reported, Jim Harbaugh has reached out to schedule a private workout with the legendary West Virginia quarterback who became a colossal NFL draft bust … White, who has bulked up to 206 pounds, received a contract offer from the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos in January. He has been working with quarterback guru George Whitfield in San Diego, hoping the NFL’s read-option craze prompts a team to give him a second chance.
The 49ers currently have a tall (6-5), strong quarterback who can run the read option in Colin Kaepernick. They have a slightly shorter (6-3) and decidedly less brawny conventional quarterback in Scott Tolzien. So why would Harbaugh be interested in a quarterback who’s listed at 6-0?
Keeping up with the Carrolls
If the 49ers indeed pursue and even sign White, it might be with more of a nod toward defensive coordinator Vic Fangio than offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The 49ers aren’t looking to groom a future starter, as Kaepernick is the guy for the foreseeable future. What White would bring is a quarterback who could more closely approximate what Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson does than any other quarterback on the market.
White and Wilson aren’t exactly the same — for one thing, White is a lefty. However, both are shorter-than-average quarterbacks who can run. In a league where signal callers are supposed to see over the defense, Wilson brought an unforeseen challenge to opposing defenses in his rookie season: how do you stop what you can’t see? As Wilson freelanced and bought time with his legs, reaction times were shortened. Once Wilson finally came into view, it was often too late.
A large part of what the 49ers look for in their
practice developmental opportunity squad are players who are the football equivalent of Jay Pharoah: impersonators. There is no player the 49ers are more worried about stopping in 2013 and beyond than Wilson, one of the most unique quarterbacks in the league. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if Seattle (which only has two QBs under contract, Wilson and Matt Flynn) brings in a third quarterback that can do a half-decent impression of Kaepernick.
There’s also a chance that Harbaugh sees White as a low-risk, high-reward guy he can develop into a viable NFL quarterback. Also, a formation with Kaepernick in the pistol and White directly behind him as the “halfback” would cause problems for opposing defenses. If White is truly ready to contribute with the same physical tools he had a few years ago, that could actually be pretty ridiculous. But with the 49ers hoping Kaepernick takes every snap from center in 2013 and Tolzien still in the team’s plans, a conventional third quarterback wouldn’t do much next season other than hold down a roster spot. So why not use that spot to help their defense?