Originally created 11/09/99

49ers deal with quarterback questions



SANTA CLARA, Calif -- Concerned about a lifeless passing game and plunging offensive productivity, the San Francisco 49ers considered benching slumping quarterback Jeff Garcia in favor of Steve Stenstrom.

A decision was expected by Wednesday. The 49ers (3-5) play at New Orleans on Sunday.

"Believe me, I have not lost any confidence in Jeff Garcia," coach Steve Mariucci said Monday. "But his production hasn't been what we want it to be, nor what he wants it to be.

"He's going through some growing pains as a first-year starter would. It's predictable to be going through some ups and downs. We just need to decide if this is a good time to make a change."

The quarterback controversy, San Francisco's first since Joe Montana and Steve Young tussled for the job in the early 1990s, arose from an injury to Young, who remains sidelined indefinitely by concussion problems.

Garcia, who spent five years in the Canadian Football League, beat out Stenstrom during training camp for the No. 2 job and took over when Young went down Sept. 27 with his fourth concussion in three years.

Garcia won his first NFL start Oct. 3, playing well in leading the 49ers past Tennessee 24-22.

Since then, Garcia has regressed and the 49ers (3-5) have lost four straight, their longest skid since losing eight in a row in 1980.

Stenstrom, who was coached by general manager Bill Walsh while the two were at Stanford, is familiar with the team's offensive system and said he's prepared if called upon.

"You want to be in a position to help the team," he said. "I'm just trying to keep myself ready to go, whenever that time comes."

Garcia had his worst outing in Sunday's 27-6 loss to Pittsburgh, getting pulled for Stenstrom in the fourth quarter after completing just 7 of 18 passes for 39 yards. Stenstrom went 5-for-15 for 54 yards.

Garcia was hurt by a couple of dropped passes in the rainy conditions but also hurt himself by several overthrows, contributing to San Francisco's recent offensive failures, particularly in the passing game.

"The accuracy was definitely not what I'm capable of doing and definitely not what I've been able to do in the past," Garcia said. "It was frustrating. I just really felt like I got out of sync as a quarterback."

Despite a career-high 166 yards rushing from Charlie Garner on Sunday, the 49ers failed to score an offensive touchdown for the second straight game.

Jerry Rice had two catches for 2 yards, his worst game since his rookie season in 1985, and fellow wide receivers Terrell Owens and J.J. Stokes barely touched the ball, combining for three catches for 26 yards.

"We've got to throw the ball better," Mariucci said. "We are not where we need to be to win football games."

In the past four games, the 49ers have produced just two offensive touchdowns and the team's leading scorer in that span is cornerback Darnell Walker, who has two touchdowns on a fumble return and interception return.

"I've had losing seasons (in Canada) but even in those times where we losing I felt offensively, at least we were scoring points," Garcia said. "We were moving the ball. We were taking advantage of opportunities in the red zone. That's just not happening over the past few weeks and I'm naturally going to take it as a reflection on me."