COMMENTARY | San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh doesn't play favorites.
Despite a stellar performance in Week 4 of the NFL preseason, quarterback Josh Johnson will not begin the 2012 season as one of the team's quarterbacks.
Johnson was a 2008 fifth round pick out of the University of San Diego, where Harbaugh coached prior to leading Stanford, and was released on Friday.
The news came when teams trimmed their rosters down to 53 players league-wide. Harbaugh has said on more than one occasion that the team had four NFL-caliber quarterbacks during training camp. Since it didn't make sense to keep four regardless of how talented they were top-to-bottom, Johnson has been sent packing.
But given his strong performance and dynamic skill set, what made him the odd man out?
Johnson had a two-touchdown, 125-yard output on Thursday night that included several plays that highlighted his elusiveness and playmaking ability on broken plays. He showed the world he is capable of playing at the NFL level, but in San Francisco he became a victim of circumstance.
Second-string quarterback Colin Kaepernick showed much of the same dynamic playmaking ability and athleticism that made him a coveted pick in the 2011 draft. Lead QB Alex Smith is also a dynamic playmaker when the play breaks down.
So Scott Tolzien, a more traditional pocket passer, will be the team's third-string quarterback. The former Wisconsin signal-caller and undrafted signee will retain his position from a year ago. It stands to reason that having a quarterback that brings a different set of skills to the table is a distinct advantage.
But it's all speculation -- these are NFL coaches, not armchair analysts, making these decisions. From a football standpoint, Tolzien fits the 49ers best according to the people that know best, and that's the bottom line.
Johnson can and probably will help another NFL team at some point. It just happens that the San Francisco 49ers no longer need his services because the quarterback position is just that deep.
For a franchise that hasn't had a Pro Bowl quarterback since 2003, that's an excellent problem to have.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL. He has written for Southern California's Press-Enterprise and is the Editor of Sports Out West.
You can follow him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.
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