Perhaps you've heard: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh inherited a roster with a quarterback problem.
Journeyman David Carr is the only signal-caller under contract, which means the Niners, presently, are without depth or a bona-fide starting NFL quarterback.
That's the bad news.
The good news? That big problem at quarterback is surrounded by big tight ends. And running backs. And linemen.
In fact, San Francisco's industrial-sized offensive personnel was one of the factors that lured Harbaugh to San Francisco from Stanford, where he transformed a Pac-10 pushover into a big-time bully with a power-based, pro-style offense.
"He really liked the roster," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. "He liked how it fit the system he wants to use."
As the Niners ready for this week's NFL Draft, they are clearly ready to do some serious quarterback shopping. The rest of the offense, however, appears to need only moderate tweaking — a third running back here, perhaps a fullback there — to help Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman implement a system similar to what worked so well for them at Stanford.
Harbaugh was an NFL quarterback, but he placed a heavy emphasis on a power running game as head coach at the University of San Diego and then at Stanford.
In his seven seasons there, Harbaugh's teams had five primary running backs — all at least 200 pounds — who accounted for five 1,000-yard seasons. In his four years at Stanford, the Cardinal ran on 58.9 percent of their offensive plays, ranking second behind Oregon (61.0) among Pac-10 teams during his tenure.
Harbaugh, of course, is heralded for his work with quarterbacks. But check out how he works his running backs.
His first tailback, USD's 220-pound Evan Harney, ranked third in Division I-AA in carries per game (27.5) in 2004. His best running back, Stanford's 235-pound Toby Gerhart, led Division I with 26.4 carries per game in 2009.
You get the idea. From San Diego to Stanford, there's been a large supply of smashmouth.
"We always wanted to be a physical team," Harney said. "And with any team, if you can control the line of scrimmage then you have a real good chance of winning the game. But it was emphasized all the way from the offensive line to our fullbacks to me as a running back to really control the line of scrimmage and have that power as far as the run game goes."
Said Stanford wide receiver Ryan Whalen, "The top thing (Harbaugh) stressed was being physical. We were going to out-physical our opponents. That's what he instilled over the years and our staff instilled."
Don't expect Harbaugh's ethos to change at the next level.
Shortly after taking over in San Francisco, he declared that he wanted to "build a bully" and hoped to have a "tough, rough, physical football team." As it happens, Baalke places a premium on size and physicality, a philosophy stemming from his days as a Jets scout under Bill Parcells.
In Baalke's first draft last year, he added five offensive players, four of whom squared with his bigger-is-better belief: 323-pound tackle Anthony Davis, 331-pound guard Mike Iupati, 233-pound running back Anthony Dixon and 264-pound tight end Nate Byham.
With last year's draft haul, the Niners have an offensive line that averages 322 pounds, with all five starters being first- or second-round picks (assuming free-agent center David Baas is re-signed). The backfield features 217-pound Frank Gore and Dixon. And the tight ends include Vernon Davis (6-3, 250), Delanie Walker (6-0, 242) and Byham.
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