Tedford's QBs, Jerry Rice, Don Nelson, Mike Martz
by Glenn Dickey
Mar 11, 2008

THE QUARTERBACK discussion will again be front and center during spring drills and even into summer camp, because coach Jeff Tedford said yesterday that he won’t name a starter until they start game-planning for the season in the summer.

Nate Longshore is still the starter at this point, but Tedford said there will be open competition for the job between Longshore and Kevin Riley. The Bears have a third quarterback whom Tedford also likes, Brock Mansion, a redshirt freshman last year, whose lack of experience will keep him out of serious contention for the starting role this year but who should be a factor in the future. “We like him a lot,” said Tedford. “He has good size (6-5, 229), he runs well and he has a very strong arm.”

Tedford said he thought Longshore would be a better quarterback because of the problems he faced last year.

“Sometimes, adversity can make you stronger,” he said. (Or, as Nietzsche said, “That which does not break you, makes you stronger.”) “When I came here, Kyle Boller was so beat down, he was ready to quit football. He thought he’d be through after his senior year. When NFL scouts talked to me after that season, I told them they didn’t have to worry about Boller breaking, because he’d already been through so much.

“Nate went through a lot last year, too, with his injury, but he’s tough and he’ll bounce back.”

Tedford also said the usual things about Longshore: “He manages the game well, makes smart decisions.”

Sorry, but I’m still not convinced he’s the right quarterback. If Riley isn’t the quarterback this fall, the Bears will underachieve again.

Though Tedford is usually as open as a football coach can be about his strategy, he’s been very guarded in his comments about his quarterbacks, primarily to protect Longshore, who has born the brunt of the criticism for the Bears losing six of seven after their 5-0 start.

So, here are the reasons I think Tedford stuck with Longshore:

--Riley’s bonehead play at the end of the Oregon State game, the Bears’ first loss, made Tedford think he didn’t have the poise or experience to continue as the starter. But when he came into the Armed Forces Bowl game in the second quarter, Riley threw brilliantly and inspired the team behind him, as Longshore never has.

--Tedford did not want to damage Longshore’s possible future in the NFL; his prospects would have plummeted if he’d been replaced by a redshirt freshman, even if it were because of an injury. But, let’s face it: Longshore has no real future in the NFL. He might be a backup, but he’s not what the pros are looking for in a starting quarterback because, even when healthy, he doesn’t have the mobility an NFL quarterback needs. Lacking that mobility, he can be pressured into interceptions in critical situations. That’s what dismayed Bill Walsh when Steve DeBerg was his quarterback. DeBerg was very smart and knew the offense very well, and he was a strong-armed accurate passer – better than Longshore in those categories. Those qualities kept him in the NFL for a long time, but primarily as a backup.

Riley is a more accurate passer, with enough running ability to pick up yardage if he’s rushed too hard, and he has the mobility to get away from the rush long enough to complete passes. He’s a fiery competitor and leader, obviously much more inspiring to his teammates than Longshore.

Tedford doesn’t want to do it, but he’s going to have to make the decision to go to Riley as his starter in the fall.

NFL SURPRISE? As Cal players worked out Tuesday for pro scouts, Tedford was asked if there was one player who he thought would be a surprise in the NFL. He nominated tight end Craig Stevens.

“Everybody knows the skill position players because they get all the attention,” he said, “but I think Craig was our MVP. He played every game, he was a standout (blocking) at the line of scrimmage, and he catches the ball well. I definitely think he can play in the NFL.”

WHY NOT RICE? Now that Eddie DeBartolo owns a sports agency operation in Florida, Jerry Rice is working with some of his clients, DeSean Jackson among them. “He’s a special talent,” Rice said. “I think the team that gets him should plan specific plays to get him the ball.”

Rice was asked if he’d ever thought of mentoring 49er receivers. “Eddie and I were talking about that this morning,” he said. “I’ve told them I’d like to, but they’ve never called me.”

Very likely, the hangup is the feud between DeBartolo and John York. Well, it’s not really a feud on Eddie’s side. but York absolutely hates his brother-in-law, mostly because fans unfavorably compare him to Eddie.

One of the Cal players, running back Justin Forsett, had a relatively slow time in the 40, and Rice could sympathize. “That was a rap on me when I came out,” he said, “that I didn’t have good track speed. But I had football speed. Somehow, when defensive backs were chasing me, I could run away from them. When I heard them behind me, the hairs on my neck stood up and I ran faster.”

Rice was asked if it bothered him that Isaac Bruce might wear his uniform number, 80, this fall. “When I went to Seattle,” he said, “Steve Largent told me I could wear 80 (which Largent had worn during his career) and that just blew me away because he was a guy I totally respected for the way he played the game. So, if Bruce wants to wear 80, it won’t bother me a bit.”

NELSON BACK? Though Don Nelson refused to commit to a third year after the Warriors picked up his option, I have no doubt he’ll be back. The job is a tough one, but it’s also one Nelson enjoys, because he’s good at it.

Now, the first thing he should do is cut the strings on the Chris Webber experiment. Let Webber make his retirement official, instead of going through the motions on the court.

MARTZ RE-VISITED: Mike Martz renewed our acquaintance – we first met a quarter of a century ago when he visited his good friend, Ron Lynn, at a Cal practice – but it took awhile. Our meeting was scheduled for noon last Wednesday but when I got to the 49er facility, I was told Martz was running behind schedule and I didn’t get in for an hour.

I assumed Martz was in a meeting, but that wasn’t it. When I came into his office, he apologized profusely and admitted he’d been running errands and had forgotten about our appoinment.

No, he wasn’t playing games with me. Martz is something of an absent-minded professor type, so busy with plotting out plays in his mind that he forgets the routine stuff. When free agency started, he was in San Diego and the 49ers tried to call him about Bruce – but he had “lost” his cell phone. It was hours before he realized he’d left it in his car, and by that time, the 49ers had signed Bruce. Martz also said he was glad that his car key had a button he could push which sounded the alarm, because he often forgets where he parked his car.

That’s not the first time I’ve had an experience with this kind of coach. Walsh was notorious for getting up in the middle of a conversation with friends, leaving the room and going to a blackboard where he could diagram a play.

Martz, though, is much more candid on-the-record than Walsh ever was. I got a lot of off-the-record information from Bill that was immensely helpful to me in my writing, but he was usually much more circumspect with his public utterances.

Once my conversation with Martz started, it lasted for an hour and ranged over many topics, from Alex Smith, which I wrote about last Friday in the Examiner, to his feelings about the exhibition season.

“When I was on the Competition Committee, I told them we should drop the fourth pre-season game and give the players a week to rest and the coaches time to cut their squads before the first regular season game,” he said, “but that makes too much sense, so it won’t happen.

“College teams play their seasons without any pre-season games. Three games is plenty of time for pro teams to evaluate their players and get ready for the regular season. Nobody wants that fourth game. Fans are on vacation, the TV networks don’t want to televise it, coaches hardly play their starters because they don’t want to get them hurt.”

That’s typical of the frankness with which Martz speaks. He’s feuded with the media over the years because he talks back when he’s criticized, but for me, the key element is that he always talks.

I think he’s a tremendous addition to the 49ers because he brings in a successful system and he will have the players’ attention from the start. Last year’s offensive coordinator, Jim Hostler, had the knowledge but he didn’t have the experience to stand up to head coach Mike Nolan, whose conservative tendencies ruled. That won't happen this year. If Nolan tries to make suggestions, Martz will tell him to put them where the sun don’t shine.

USF MESS: The battle of words is escalating at USF. The schools’ attorney, Michael Vartain, claimed on Monday that basketball coach Jesse Evans had committed “multiple secondary NCAA violations.” Yesterday, Evans’ attorney, Dan Siegel, said he doubted there’s much evidence.

I have no inside information on this, but my experience leads me to believe Siegel. Though Vartain has piously maintained the university was trying to protect Evans’ reputation, in fact the actions taken by athletic director Debra Gore-Mann have already damaged that reputation. If USF truly has evidence that justifies Gore-Mann’s actions against Evans, it should already have been revealed.

Significantly, Siegel represented two women coaches at Fresno State, volleyball coach Lindy Vivas and basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein, who won multi-million dollar verdicts against the school. Siegel claims that attorney Desiree Reed-Francois, while working at Fresno State, made the charges against the two coaches. Reed-Francois is now the assistant director for compliance at USF.

It seems to me that USF is going to get a very public black eye from all this. The school should cut its losses by quickly negotiating a settlement with Evans.

LETTERS: I usually just include e-mails on my website and Examiner columns, but I got some interesting feedback on my last Pro Football Weekly column, so I’ll include some representative e-mails on that column as well when I update “Letters” on Saturday.

OOPS: Meaning to write last week that the Raiders had signed Kwame Harris, I wrote Kwame Brown. (I corrected that after a reader pointed out my error.) Well, they’re both duds. Maybe talent scouts should just pass on athletes with that first name.

MARCH MADNEESS is approaching and tickets for all tournament games, including the Finals, are available on the TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! links at the bottom of my Home Page. As the NBA hits its stretch run, the Warriors have key back-to-back games against the Lakers, March 23 in Los Angeles, the next night in Oakland. The start of baseball season is less than a month away, and tickets are available for all teams. Tickets are also available for the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium, as fans prepare to say goodbye to the most fabled stadium of our time. In the entertainment world, Kenny Chesney’s tour will be at AT&T Park on June 8, Radiohead will hit the road in May. On Broadway, Rent will end a 12-year run in June, and tickets are available. Jersey Boys and Wicked remain hot tickets. For tickets to these events and many others, just click at the local and national links and everything will come up.

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