It was supposed to be after Week #3 in this pre-season fight between top rated draft pick Alex Smith and eight-year un-drafted veteran Shaun Hill that Mike Singletary would unveil the top-secret starting quarterback for the 2009 San Francisco 49ers. Just after the Battle of the Bay was but smoke on the horizon with the Oakland Raiders leaving Candlestick being defeated 21-20, the mind of reason began contemplating his next sequential move.
If there is anything about Mike Singletary, one has to give credit to his stoic and deliberate approach to everything. No rock is left unturned when it comes to focusing on specifics and details as far as the science of football is concerned or just life in general. Mike will look, analyze and evaluate everything from start to finish and give you a calculated answer to the question you ask.
With his religious faith swinging around his neck and his fire and brimstone mannerisms for intensity flaring from his facial expressions, Mike arrived at this decision with a clear conscience and a sense of relief to put the most sought after answer for our offense to final rest. Shaun Hill spent the majority of his NFL career looking well behind many other quarterbacks, even five-seasons total without ever throwing an NFL pass period.
Both being best friends they promised that they wouldn't hold anything against each other once the starter was named and each one gave that commitment from the heart and vowed to be supportive of the other. Mike wanted Alex to exorcise the demons from the past and possibly pry himself in as the leading man in this race. With one season-ending injury to another and a tendency to hold the ball too long Alex couldn't quite turn the corner but made great strides and a case to be an established quarterback someday.
Intangibles is what Mike called them, that being abilities that permeate leadership and allow others to believe he is the one with the sheer force of utter determination that can make a difference on this offense. Offensive linemen follow and appreciate his style and charisma out on the field and his weapons of choice know he is always scanning the battlefield for the most opportune strike that will inflict devastation on a defense.
Taking Alex Smith in the first pick out of the 2005 NFL Draft and starting him immediately was against every concept and every principle that former legendary head coach Bill Walsh stood for. He believed in having a quarterback start only after they had learned a year or longer behind a veteran no matter what they had been paid.
Truth is told it would be one of our longest and darkest hours in all of our San Francisco 49er quarterback history in which we would suffer through seven offensive coordinators and two ineffective head coaches in which we would finally stumble along on an un-drafted renegade quarterback in Shaun Hill. Not since Jeff Garcia have we had any kind of real continuity or consistency at this position. It has evolved into utter despair and frustration for 49er die-hards to sit back and watch such a circus roll on for six consecutive losing seasons.
This was the right choice and at the right time in my opinion. Like Mike referred to in the third pre-season game it is treated much like a regular season game in the context that the starting quarterback should be working hard to see the opportunities that may exist within the complexities of the offensive philosophies that Jimmy Raye is applying. Shaun Hill is all about pointing the finger at the right individual when the going gets tough, and that starts with himself.
In this game against the Oakland Raiders the quarterback battle was relatively quiet in that Alex completed but only 3-of-9 passes for 30 total yards and Shaun 3-of-7 passes for 20 total yards. It was the offensive line and the running attack for 275 total yards that won the focal point of the entire game.
Alabama star running back Glen Coffee continued to make a strong case to be the second tier back behind Frank Gore by carrying the ball 16 times for 129 total yards with 8.1 yards per carry average. He was amazing as well as the offensive line was in moving in shifts and powering over a Raider defensive line that allowed backs like Coffee to exploit them and utterly baffle them. 389 total yards of offense was generated by the 49ers and a 56% third down efficiency.
Imposing one's will on a defense and playing smash-mouth football up front and personal in the trenches as linemen was very evident in this game from every collective vantage point. Commentators acknowledged that the San Francisco 49ers were developing a new mantra in that their philosophy is about being ultra-physical and over-powering at the point of attack play by play and hour by hour.
With Frank getting but just a few token carries, others like Michael Robinson with 97 total yards and Kory Sheets for 51 total yards had a field day in orchestrating attention to the fact that this may be the beginning of something special for the rushing attack of the San Francisco 49ers. Special attention to tackles Joe Staley and Adam Snyder for incredible blocks as well as the others in expressing themselves against a wily Raider defensive line that spent the better part of the early evening panting out on the field.
Some observations I was impressed with were rookie quarterback Nate Davis's play in completing 6-of-11 passes for 67 total yards with one touchdown and a quarterback rating of 103.2%. He looked comfortable and led the offense in a positive manner after falling well behind 14-3 to the Raiders. Starting free safety Dashon Goldson was also a menacing presence on the field in regards to defense after upending Raider tight end Tony Stewart and closed on the ball rather quickly in my opinion.
Reason for concern was with veteran kicker Joe Nedney kicking the ball out of bounds within the two-minute warning, which allowed the Raiders to start their final drive from their 40-yard line. He also mysteriously missed a 51-yard field goal attempt, one he usually makes with relative ease.
First Round Draft Pick Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree continues to hold out for a big payday. I am disgusted by the whole idea as is many of the fans that want a destined millionaire to knock it off with the silly antics in justifying the fact he deserves to be even a larger than life type-millionaire.
Certainly it is a business decision by 49er management to hold a line on where these negotiations go, but I am confident he'll be in Santa Clara by the time regular season begins. Let me go on record as being firm he has tainted his image with us fans a bit in being greedy. Playing for a franchise that has a proven track record for manufacturing champions should be alluring enough to shut the mouth of an agent not concerned with establishing unity from a team-oriented concept. Let's get them Cowboys!
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.