Wake-up call for San Francisco 49ers, coach Jim Harbaugh in preseason debut 

The 49ers have long been true to Bill Walsh’s ban on rookie hazing. Too bad first-year coaches can’t avoid rude introductions to the NFL.

After watching Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick take turns getting pummeled in New Orleans on Friday, Jim Harbaugh sheepishly acknowledged the 49ers, “weren’t quite ready for the Saints’ blitz.”

San Francisco’s shockingly porous offensive line should improve with a greater focus on little things like using max-protection formations, moving the pocket or mixing in screens, draws and quick slants to punish high-risk defenses which the 49ers are sure to see most every week.

The addition of newly signed Pro Bowl center Jonathan Goodwin, who is expected to be in the lineup for the first time Saturday against the Raiders, should also help.

But while offensive coordinator Greg Roman said the team hasn’t decided whether to carry two or three quarterbacks on the roster, the 49ers cannot seriously consider starting the season without an experienced passer waiting in the wings.

Steve Mariucci found that out the hard way in his 49ers coaching debut when Steve Young was knocked out of the 1997 opener at Tampa Bay. San Francisco’s No. 2 quarterback that year was rookie Jim Druckenmiller. Even though Kaepernick is more gifted than the ever-forgettable Druckenmiller, he can hardly be expected to be ready to run the offense proficiently after just three weeks of training camp.

So why did the 49ers wait until now to even consider adding a veteran like Daunte Culpepper? Equally perplexing is why the 49ers passed on signing any of the accomplished free-agent quarterbacks previously on the market before finally giving a tryout to the three-time Pro Bowler. Besides, the 34-year-old Culpepper couldn’t elude speed pass rushers with the Raiders back in 2007 and has been out of the league since 2009.

Maybe the 49ers will go on a scavenger hunt and bring in an unsigned veteran QB such as Charlie Frye, J.P. Losman, Brodie Croyle or former 49ers J.T. O’Sullivan or Troy Smith. Or maybe the 49ers are playing possum and waiting until rosters are cut from 90 to 53, freeing up hundreds of players before the start of the regular season.

Harbaugh, still hedging on who will be his opening day quarterback, was certainly wise to surround himself with a host of assistants with NFL experience. Niners newcomers may not face any hazing in Santa Clara, but they better be ready to deal with a ton of abuse on game day.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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