SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) _ San Francisco 49ers general manager Terry Donahue doesn't want to make any decisions about the team's future at quarterback until he gets a good look at a healthy Tim Rattay.
Donahue indicated Wednesday the 49ers might steer away from selecting a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NFL draft, a pick San Francisco is assured of by virtue of its league-worst 2-13 record.
The 49ers are struggling through one of the worst offensive seasons in team history, and the inconsistent play of Rattay and second-year backup Ken Dorsey has led to speculation the team needs an upgrade at the position to win in the future.
But as Rattay walked by in the San Francisco locker room with his throwing arm in a sling the result of surgery Tuesday on his right forearm Donahue said the 49ers really can't be sure yet what they have in the three young quarterbacks on their roster.
You'd much rather have clear, definitive answers to our quarterback situation,'' Donahue said.But I don't think anybody could stand up on the table and say that, beyond any reasonable amount of doubt, this is where we're at _ good or bad. I don't think we can do that.''
Rattay, Dorsey and rookie Cody Pickett all are seventh-round draft picks. Rattay has played in only nine games this season because of three different injuries. Dorsey will make his seventh start in Sunday's season finale at New England.
Rattay ranks 21st in the NFL with a quarterback rating of 78.1. Dorsey's rating of 58.0 would put him below all 33 quarterbacks who currently qualify. Pickett has a rating of 18.8 after throwing his first 10 passes in relief of Dorsey during last week's loss against Buffalo.
The three quarterbacks have combined for 21 interceptions and 15 touchdown passes this season. They've also lost 11 fumbles, numbers that have contributed to San Francisco's No. 26 ranking in total offense.
San Francisco's porous offensive line and weak running game haven't done much to keep pressure off the quarterbacks. The 49ers are 30th in the league in rushing and have been sacked 51 times this season, two shy of the single-season franchise record.
It depends on how you want to spin it and how you want to look at it as to how you want to analyze (the quarterbacks),'' Donahue said.I still believe in our players. I'm not going to waver in that belief.''
The 49ers are on pace to finish with their lowest offensive ranking since the NFL began recording such rankings in 1972. San Francisco's offense ranked 21st in 1978 _ the only time the 49ers have been below 13th in the past 26 seasons.
The 49ers are 28th in scoring with 252 points and will finish with the second-fewest points in team history over a 16-game season unless they score 44 points at New England.
Rattay, however, never has been healthy at any point this season. His forearm troubles began in training camp, and he separated his throwing shoulder in San Francisco's season opener against Atlanta. He also has been sidelined by a foot injury.
Not everybody that plays football is a good passer, and I think Tim Rattay is a good passer when he has protection and he has time,'' Donahue said.I just want to get this kid built up, I want to get him healthy, I want to get him protected, and then see what happens.''
Despite the injuries, Rattay has displayed flashes of brilliance this season. He threw for 417 yards in a victory over Arizona, the 10th-best single-game total in team history. Rattay said his recent operation, which will improve blood flow to his forearm, will allow him to throw the ball better in 2005 than he was able to this year.
It hasn't been real good all year, obviously,'' Rattay said.I just didn't have the pop that I'm used to having. I could still make throws and stuff, but it wasn't popping off like I wanted to. That's why I'm pretty fired up about this and how it went, just to know that there was a problem and they fixed it. I'm looking forward to getting back and (throwing) after this.''
Rattay almost certainly will enter training camp next year as San Francisco's projected starter. Donahue said, ``there's not clearly a Michael Vick or a Peyton Manning in this year's draft,'' so the Niners are likely to address other areas of need with their top pick.
Does that mean we're going to stand pat (at quarterback)? Not necessarily,'' Donahue said.You'd have to tell me who's available and when they're available and what they cost and all that kind of stuff. Then I can answer you. There may not be a quarterback (worthy of the top pick).''