Jim Harbaugh isn't adverse to the idea of developing quarterbacks that haven't produced in the NFL.
After all, he was the man arguably most responsible for Alex Smith's turnaround after five disappointing years before he was hired as 49ers head coach.
On Wednesday, San Francisco added quarterback John Skelton, a former project of the Arizona Cardinals and most recently the Cincinnati Bengals. He was released in favor of former 49er Josh Johnson to back up Andy Dalton before Week 1.
“Felt like we wanted to have two veteran quarterbacks, two guys that have started games, played in games, won games. Felt like that’s what we needed to do at this time," Harbaugh said Wednesday.
The two veterans he referred to are Skelton and Colt McCoy, who now round out a group of quarterbacks that's seen three players leave since the end of August. Scott Tolzien, Seneca Wallace and now B.J. Daniels have all departed.
It came as no surprise that Daniels was claimed by the Seattle Seahawks Wednesday after being waived a day prior. In a conference call leading up to Week 2's match up between the 49ers and Seahawks, Pete Carroll indicated his team had interest in drafting the South Florida quarterback, whom San Francisco took in the seventh round.
Before the news of Daniels' getting claimed, Harbaugh indicated he hoped he would clear waivers and make it back to the practice squad. Of course, that did not happen.
Skelton, 6'5" with a big arm, resembles the more traditional pocket passer that's been en vogue for decades.
“Good stature in the pocket, experienced guy, he’s played, won games and been in those battles," Harbaugh said.
"He had an excellent workout when he was here a few weeks back, one of the better workouts I’ve seen from a quarterback in one of those workout environments,” Harbaugh said.
One of the battles Harbaugh might have been referring two was a game against his 49ers back in 2011, in which he authored a 21-19 win for the Cardinals. It was the most impressive start of his career, throwing for 297 yards and three touchdowns while posting a career-high 106.5 quarterback rating.
“We’ve always been impressed with him," Harbaugh said.
Skelton's stature and strong arm have always stood out since coming into the NFL. But he's thrown 25 interceptions to just 15 touchdowns and has a 8-9 record in games he's played. The knock on the Fordham alum has been his ability to digest and master a playbook.
"I think (quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst) put it best. He said, ‘we’re in the middle of the book right now. You just got to hop in. You’re not starting from the beginning.' So I think that I’ll get there,” Skelton said.
Skelton came into the NFL having set school records at Fordham for completions, yards and touchdowns. He was thrown into the fire in Arizona while the team struggled to find a productive starting quarterback after bringing in Derek Anderson and Kevin Kolb behind a struggling offensive line.
Skelton was released this Spring after the Cardinals hired new head coach Bruce Arians and elected to go with Carson Palmer under center.
Given the circumstances he's experienced in his first three seasons in the league with Arizona, nothing has come easy for Skelton, including his roundabout journey to the Bay Area this week.
“It’s been a really fast paced and a lot of frequent flier miles over the last few days,” Skelton said.
His started in Arizona last Thursday, flew to El Paso Texas, then to Nashville - via Dallas - for a workout Tuesday. He flew overnight to make it to South Bay Wednesday morning to sign with the 49ers.
Following his workout Tuesday, the Titans did not offer Skelton a contract, he said.
"As soon as people here caught wind of that, they flew me back out," said Skelton.
It's unlikely Skelton will be asked to do more than carry a clipboard this weekend when the team takes on Houston, but there's always a possibility he could be in the running for the backup job over McCoy should he impress the coaching staff going forward.
“The way our situation is, a guy that’s, along with Colt, played in games and won games, being on our 53 gives us a chance to contribute if needed. That’s what we were looking for our third quarterback," Harbaugh said.
"Excited to work with him. That’s really what it amounts to. Three quarterbacks that have all played in games and been in the fire. We have three at our disposal. Got a great starter and two guys now that can back up that have been in those games.”
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