Did 49ers get it right at QB?

Niners general manager Terry Donahue says he expects starting quarterback Jeff Garcia to play "three, four, five more years in the league." Just the same, the Niners made some definitive moves behind Garcia at the position the last few days, signing Tim Rattay to a rather curious contract extension and opting to go with the potential of a young Ken Dorsey over the more mature and experienced Brandon Doman, even though Doman's numbers were better in the preseason.

With Doman looking more in tune with the offense but Dorsey displaying a good arm and solid instincts during the summer, there had been talk the Niners might try to carry four quarterbacks this season. That wouldn't have made much sense, considering their roster needs at other areas. So the choice was Dorsey, who now can be groomed for the future while Garcia and Rattay are groomed for today.

The move doesn't make since only if something were to happen to Garcia and Rattay and Dorsey must contribute immediately. Doman, who had a year of seasoning in the San Francisco system last year, appears more ready to play if the Niners needed him to do so today.

Doman had, statistically, an excellent preseason - completing 76.2 percent of his passes and compiling a quarterback rating of 108.4, which led all Niners quarterbacks this summer. Dorsey completed just 48.7 percent of his throws in an offense designed for high efficiency.

"That is why stats don't mean anything," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said. "It is productivity and a lot more things than just stats. Ken made big plays and Ken has a good feel of what is going on. Not that Brandon didn't, but this isn't as much about how Brandon played as it is how Ken played."

Another consideration is Dorsey is just 22 years old. Doman turns 27 this year. Rattay is actually younger than Doman, and it doesn't make much sense to keep a third-string quarterback as old as Doman if the Niners expect Rattay to be around for a while, which obviously they do after signing him to a three-year, $4.8 million contract extension that included a $1.5 million signing bonus.

That deal might surprise some, because it indicates the Niners consider Rattay of starter quality if something were to happen to take out Garcia from the team's quarterback equation in the near future. The Niners are committing to Rattay as their top backup/possible starter through 2006.

Having Rattay under contract for the next few years also affords more developmental time for Dorsey, who has the size, arm and skill to do big things at this level. He's not ready to do those things now, but the potential is there. He could be a big winner in this offense someday. The Niners, frankly, just didn't see that happening with Doman.

"Dorsey has a fearlessness about him that's really admirable," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said. "He will put the ball anywhere, anytime. Now, that's a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing, we can correct. The good thing, you can't teach that."

The good thing for the Niners is - after years of roster changes at QB behind Garcia - they appear set at the position for possibly years to come. The bad news would be if Rattay and Dorsey don't work out as planned.


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