Niners move on without McNown

The 49ers took a glimpse of their future at quarterback on Saturday, and it didn't include Cade McNown. The Niners cut McNown before the beginning of their three-day minicamp, and it had nothing to do with the fact McNown's left shoulder had been cut on during season-ending surgery eight months ago. "That wasn't really a factor," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said. "It was his performance, basically."

And McNown's performance, basically, had been a bust since he joined the 49ers last summer in a conditional trade with the Miami Dolphins that ended up costing the Niners nothing.

It was easy to blame McNown's shoulder problems for his skimpy, fluttering, off-target throws in training camp last year. But - after surgery, rehabilitation and months of working with Niners coaches and personnel on his throwing and technique - McNown didn't have much to fall back on earlier this month when his throws again were lacking zip and precision in the team's first spring minicamp.

McNown said at that point that he didn't "feel like I've taken any steps back in a long time." But he obviously wasn't taking any steps forward, at least as far as securing a job with the Niners was concerned. And the team simply could not afford to wait any longer for him to come along.

Particularly not after drafting Ken Dorsey in the seventh round in April, and then watching both Dorsey and second-year QB Brandon Doman continue to develop at a pace that would only be thwarted if they had to share snaps with McNown behind starter Jeff Garcia and backup Tim Rattay.

"If you go from five to four quarterbacks, you've increased reps 20 percent for the other four," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said Saturday.

That was important, Erickson said, "so that we could get some turns. We decided that we were just crowded there and felt that unfortunately Cade was the guy that we had to let go."

Erickson didn't attempt to sidestep the issue of why McNown was released. He was beaten out by Doman and Dorsey.

"Basically, he didn't execute like we wanted him to," Erickson said. "He wasn't quite as accurate and just a lot of different things for whatever reason. In our evaluation, and as we looked at the future of the position, we made that decision. His shoulder bothered him at times, (but) he's healthy. It's not a health factor."

Said Donahue, "I think his shoulder's healthy. He's passed the physical. He just wasn't as accurate as you need to be at this level. I'm trying to give you an explanation of why we released him and the basic explanation is it was due to lack of accuracy and the fact that we needed to get to four quarterbacks."

The Niners had only three quarterbacks during Saturday's two-hour session, which will be followed by similar practices the next two days.

Garcia was given the day off after experiencing flu-like symptoms, leaving Rattay, Doman and Dorsey to handle all of the snaps. All three quarterbacks performed well during the extended opportunity.

"We got a chance to see those three," Erickson said. "Brandon has been a student of the game and has been around here and has learned really well. I thought (Dorsey) threw really well. It's a learning process. Now, having a few more turns, the learning level for Ken will be increased without question."

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