Why Would the 49ers Trade for Colt McCoy, and What Does He Bring to the Table?

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterApril 1, 2013

Ever since Alex Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, questions have been swirling as to whom the San Francisco 49ers backup to Colin Kaepernick would be. Many believed San Francisco would either use a Day 2 or Day 3 selection on a quarterback because of the thin free-agent market. 

However, that doesn't seem to be the case. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Cleveland Browns have shipped Colt McCoy to the Bay Area for a fifth- and seventh-round pick. The move comes as a surprise considering McCoy doesn't appear to be an immediate fit.

Prior to the trade, the only other quarterback the Niners had on their roster was third-year pro Scott Tolzien. Before the start of the 2012 season, Tolzien beat out Josh Johnson for the third and final quarterback spot.

Yet Monday's trade means Tolzien will most likely end up as the team's No. 3 quarterback again, or he won't even be on the roster when the season begins because of the overall direction of Greg Roman's offense.

Even though McCoy will never be able to run the way Kaepernick does, Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke must believe he has enough mobility and athleticism to run the 49ers offense. If we were to go back and look at his play as a member of the Texas Longhorns, we would see that he used his legs quite often.

During his sophomore and junior seasons at Texas, the former third-round pick rushed for 1,053 yards on 250 attempts. Sure, he didn't run out of the pistol like Kaepernick did at Nevada, but the Longhorns did utilize the read-option at times. 

Below is one of his most impressive runs out of the read-option.

In Cleveland, McCoy wasn't given the opportunity to utilize his skill set as a runner. Under Eric Mangini in 2010, the Browns offense consisted primarily of Peyton Hillis. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's play-calling lacked creativity and was often categorized as predictable. 

As a team, Cleveland averaged almost 26 rushes a game that season, which means it only threw the ball about 30 times a game, not to mention that number fell even further during McCoy's eight starts. On average, he was only allowed to throw the ball 27 times per contest. 

For a team that played catch-up most of the season, that's an awfully low number. In 2011, Pat Shurmur took over as the head coach and implemented his West Coast-style offense. It was believed to be a good fit for McCoy because the strength of his game was accuracy. 

Unfortunately, injuries and a lack of talented playmakers around No. 12 stunted his growth once again.

The NFL is all about the system a player is drafted into and his fit inside the system. Even though Shurmur's offense took advantage of McCoy's ability to accurately throw the ball, it didn't hit on the rest of his skill set. 

In 21 starts, he only ran the ball 89 times—an average of four rushes a game. On average, Kaepernick rushed the ball close to seven times a game as a starter. It's also worth mentioning a majority of his runs were by design, unlike McCoy's.

In reality, McCoy is unproven as a runner at the NFL level. Yet if he can still move in the same way he did at Texas, he will fit in with with 49ers just fine. He won't be asked to control the offense as a starter, nor will he be asked to make all of the plays even if he finds himself in the game. 

He's better than the rest of the free-agent quarterbacks on the market, and San Francisco apparently believes he's better than any mid-round pick the draft has to offer. With 14 selections total, it was wise of the 49ers to unload two of those picks to get a guy they believed in as a backup. 

If Harbaugh and Baalke can squeeze talent out of Alex Smith, there's no reason they can't squeeze talent out McCoy.


All statistics were gathered from Pro Football Reference