49ers, Bethel-Thompson back where they started
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Programming note: Watch Thursday's 49ers press conference with Vic Fangio, Greg Roman and Anquan Boldin today at 12 p.m. streaming live online right here

Here's a look at how the 49ers' hunt for a No. 3 quarterback has gone full circle since Jim Harbaugh became coach in 2011:

Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach, and convinced Alex Smith to return to the organization on a one-year contract. The 49ers then traded up in the second round to select Colin Kaepernick.

The 49ers added McLeod Bethel-Thompson to the initial 90-man roster of the Harbaugh regime. The 49ers wanted to add a veteran, but were not interested in either David Carr or Troy Smith from the 2010 roster.

Matt Hasselbeck turned down the 49ers to sign with the Tennessee Titans. And the 49ers brought in Daunte Culpepper for a workout. Ultimately, the 49ers added veteran, Josh McCown, after a couple weeks of camp.

McCown and Bethel-Thompson were released as the 49ers trimmed to the 53-player limit. Bethel-Thompson attempted just one pass (incomplete) in four exhibition games.

Briefly, the 49ers had only two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster, Smith and Kaepernick. Bethel-Thompson was added to the 49ers practice squad, but he was released one day later when the 49ers claimed Scott Tolzien off waivers from the San Diego Chargers to take over as the No. 3 quarterback.

The 49ers signed veteran Josh Johnson to compete for a role on the team behind Smith, the no-questions-asked starter throughout the entire offseason. Johnson previously served as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ backup quarterback behind Josh Freeman after being groomed by Harbaugh while he was head coach at the University of San Diego.

Kaepernick held onto the job as the backup to open the season, and Tolzien was retained as the No. 3 quarterback despite being clearly out-performed by Johnson during the four exhibition games.

Smith was dealt to Kansas City in the offseason after Kaepernick took over as the starter at midseason and played well on the 49ers’ march to the Super Bowl. The 49ers acquired veteran Colt McCoy in a trade with the Cleveland Browns to be the backup.

B.J. Daniels was selected in the seventh round of the draft. The 49ers signed veteran quarterback Seneca Wallace on Aug. 22. Two days later, McCoy agreed to a restructured contract that lowered his base salary from $1.5 million to $630,000 with the other $870,000 still available via per-game roster bonuses. Two days later, the 49ers waived Tolzien. Three days later, Wallace did not make the trip to San Diego for the final exhibition game because he believed the 49ers signed him for the sole purpose of getting McCoy to accept the new contract terms.

Daniels spent the first four weeks of the regular season as the No. 3 quarterback. He was waived on Oct. 1 to make room for John Skelton, whom Josh Johnson (49ers, 2012) beat out for a Cincinnati Bengals roster spot.

“I felt like we wanted to have two veteran quarterbacks, two guys that have started games, played in games, won games,” Harbaugh said last week. “I felt like that's what we needed to do at this time.”

The Seattle Seahawks claimed Daniels off waivers. And Skelton was on the 49ers’ roster for one game. He was seen studying his 49ers iPad playbook in the locker room at lunchtime on Wednesday. Shortly thereafter, the 49ers received word they had been awarded their claim of Bethel-Thompson, waived by the Minnesota Vikings one day earlier. Skelton was released, and Bethel-Thompson – the undrafted camp arm of 2011 – was back with the 49ers.

Bethel-Thompson, 25, played football at Balboa High in San Francisco and went on to UCLA and transferred to Sacramento State. He signed with the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena League in 2010, and signed with the 49ers a year later. After the 49ers cut him, he played with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL. Then, he spent part of 2011 with the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad. In 2012, he beat out Sage Rosenfels for the Vikings’ No. 3 job. He was waived Tuesday, as the Vikings made room for the addition of Freeman, who was released by the Buccaneers last week.

On Aug. 25, when the 49ers faced the Vikings in the exhibition season, Bethel-Thompson did not play. This summer, he completed 33 of 52 pass attempts for 320 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for an 85.4 passer rating.

And what about that experience that drew the 49ers to Skelton at the expense of Daniels? Bethel-Thompson has never attempted a pass in an NFL regular-season game.

In line images of Jim Harbaugh, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Alex Smith (above left) and B.J. Daniels (above right) provided by USA Today Sports Images