Can McCown help 49ers? Maybe six years ago

Has Jim Harbaugh been watching too much 49ers game film? Like 2005 49ers game film? What other reason to explain Wednesday's choice of Josh McCown to add a veteran presence to the team's shaky QB corps? Harbaugh no doubt saw McCown shred the 49ers in Mexico City six seasons ago, quite possibly the best game of his life, then saw the light go on and said, "That's our guy." Or something like that.

Because the game film Harbaugh has to watch of McCown as a NFL player over the past three seasons consists of one completion in six passing attempts during two years of virtual non-action with the Carolina Panthers in 2008-2009.

There also was McCown's film from last season, when he was the leading passer in the United Football League while playing with those powerhouse Hartford Colonials. But perhaps it was a bit tough for Harbaugh to gauge what McCown can bring against that level of competition.

Whatever McNown brings at age 32 and two seasons removed from NFL combat, he's the new face behind center in 49ers camp, the guy the 49ers have hired to be veteran insurance at the position while not squabbling about being labeled as the team's No. 3 option at the position.

At this point in his career, McCown's probably fine with that. Particularly since he was without a job with the start of the regular season now 22 days away.

Well, actually, he had a job. He was coaching high school football in North Carolina two days ago. That will keep you ready for the NFL.

When asked how easy it will be for him to settle in and pick up a new offense with the 49ers, McCown said, "I've been around a lot of places."

Which is the definition of NFL journeyman, and this could be the last stop. McCown, who signed a one-year deal for $810,000, already was on the field throwing passes with the 49ers during Wednesday's practice, his abrupt arrival coming without any prelude that he was even being considered by the team. He worked out with the 49ers on Wednesday morning before being signed.

McCown's certainly a better fit than Daunte Culpepper, the other veteran who has been out of the NFL since 2009 and played in the UFL last year that the 49ers auditioned this week at quarterback.

Culpepper is two years older than McCown, doesn't have McCown's mobility, and likely wouldn't have been too content in the No. 3 role once he saw Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick running into problems and/or playing keystone cops behind an unsettled offensive line, which seems likely to happen sooner rather than later during the 2011 season.

So why McCown? Why not some other veteran who has more recent NFL experience in his portfolio? Why, it's all right there on that 49ers tape, back in 2005 when Smith was getting his start and Harbaugh could have been checking out old game film of at least eight players who still are on San Francisco's roster today.

A lot of quarterbacks had their way with the 49ers that season, but none quite like McCown in that October game at Mexico City's Estadio Azteca, the first regular-season game in NFL history to be played outside the United States. McCown thrashed the 49ers throughout the evening, completing 32 of 46 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Arizona Cardinals back from an early two-touchdown deficit to a lopsided 31-14 victory.

Too bad the 49ers aren't quite getting that same quarterback today. McCown lost the starting job to Kurt Warner later that year, was gone from Arizona by the next season and has bounced around between four other pro teams – including those Colonials – ever since.

So McCown will be no threat to Smith and Kaepernick. Can he still play? Probably well enough to get by. Will the 49ers have to resort to him at some point in the coming season? Let's hope not.

He's not the experienced veteran who could have challenged the two-headed Smith/Kaepernick monster that the 49ers could have – and perhaps should have – held out longer to find.

But that's OK, because the 49ers have already seen what the guy can do. It's right there on their old game film.

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