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Arguments for Alex Smith and Shaun Hill to Start

The most difficult decision of the Mike Singletary administration will soon have to be made: Who to start at QB. In an attempt to be fair to both parties, I present arguments for both Alex Smith and Shaun Hill.

According to Matt Barrows, Alex Smith has looked healthier, stronger, more accurate this past month than in the previous two years. He was the unquestioned starting quarterback two years ago before his shoulder injury, and was a player who seemed to have a strong upside to his game. Did his shoulder injury two years ago affect his ability to play at a high level? Surely. The question is: How much?

Smith presents the best long-term QB answer for the Niners, when stacked against Hill. Alex is four years younger, possesses a stronger arm, and has greater mobility in and out of the pocket.

Supporters of Smith will state that the Niners' OL has never given Alex the chance to develop his game, as he has been running for his life the moment he stood behind the center.

Critics will say that: He simply doesn't get it; although intelligent, he simply has not been able to transition from the shotgun to playing under the center; that he lacks the characteristic of being a strong leader. Critics will argue that he slumps his head too much, isn't a guy who can rally the team effectively, doesn't inspire confidence. All of these statements would be true to some degree. Even the most strident Smith fans would have to admit that these are specific areas of improvement that must happen for Smith to have a starting role in this league.

Shaun Hill has been the super-sub the previous two seasons. His high winning percentage, and strong QB rating in 2008, point to a guy as a winner. He is a terrific leader, and even though he doesn't have a dynamic arm, he gets the ball in most places at most times (although it surely isn't pretty). He is consistent, and does a solid job at limiting turnovers in most games. Hill is a solid game manager. Players rally behind him, more so than Smith. Hill has the necessary confidence that Smith has lacked at times. Finally, while Smith has struggled to adjust to four OC's in four years (as predicted last season, the 2009 season would make for a fifth OC), Hill seems to assimilate each offense with greater ease.

Critics will state that he has limited upside to his game due to sub-standard arm strength, that he cannot make a number of throws on the field, that he doesn't have the ability to stretch the field. They will state that while Hill must be a game manager to win, Smith can post points on the board, that the offense can be more dynamic.

The Niners have a tough call. Outside of the first month of his rookie season, Smith has never come off the bench in his career, and this could be a good thing or bad thing. In one sense, it might take the pressure off of him to produce right away. However, it might also hurt his confidence to be a backup to a NFL journeyman QB. The momentum this spring has been with Smith. How would he react to not getting the starting role?

On the flip side, Hill has been outstanding in a backup role. The team would have tremendous confidence in Hill if Smith went down with an injury in a game, or simply was not producing. However, he has never gone into a season as the starter, and the expectations for greater offensive production may not match his skill set. Entering the season as a starter is a far different animal than coming off the bench. And yet, when Hill plays, the Niners win. Would that change if he started the season at QB, instead of a relief pitcher?

In the end, the Niners will have to answer the question: Which QB gives us a better chance to win? And the answer could be based upon their thoughts on the offensive line and defense. If the Niners have confidence that they will be able to run the ball efffectively, limit the QB to 20-25 throws a game, and have a studly defense, Shaun Hill would appear to be the better option. However, if the Niners really want to open up the offense in 2009, and feel like the defense will not be strong enough to carry the team this season, Smith may be the better option.

There will certainly be more than 1,000 Smith-Hill/Hill-Smith threads once training camp emerges, and the daily drama will surely stoke fires. Ultimately, the team needs to strongly endorse one guy as the starter, or else risk a tough year. Teams with training camp battles at QB, and uncertainty entering the season, struggle to win games, and generally have sub-500 seasons. The goal should be to announce the QB as soon as possible so that everyone is on the same page.

Bold 2010 Prediction: There will not be a QB controversy for the Niners in 2010. Either Hill will show that he is a starter in this league, or not. Smith will show that he is a stable franchise QB to build a team around. Or, the Niners will target a QB in free agency or the draft, to start right away.

Cheers.

[ Edited by MadDog49er on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:30:42 ]
  • mayo49
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 20,553
Go, Alex!
Originally posted by mayo63:
Go, Alex!
Alex Smith -- give credit where it's due

http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/49ers/archives/2009/06/alex-smith----g.html?mi_rss=49ers%20Blog%20and%20Q%26A

Quote:
Smith, however, deserves recognition. If you were to write a manual on how to ruin a young quarterback, you would follow, step-by-step, Smith's progression since 2005. He was thrown into the starting lineup too soon, he had inferior talent around him, he suffered a serious injury to his throwing arm and his head coach, the guy who should have had his back, abandoned him at his lowest moment. In short, Smith has had it as rough as any young quarterback. Ever. You may not think he's the 49ers' quarterback of the future, and in truth he's shown only flashes of potential amid mostly ordinary and subpar play. But give him credit for bringing himself back physically - and emotionally - to a point where he is at least challenging for the starting role.
__________________________________________________________________

Alex Smith nearly has made up for lost time

http://www.sacbee.com/sf49ers/story/1975409.html?mi_rss=49ers

Quote:
Alex spent January, February and March asking himself the same question: "Is my arm ever going to feel the way it used to?" The answer, he can say with confidence today, is yes. The month of June very much belonged to Smith. No, he hasn't moved past Hill in the competition to be the starting quarterback. But he has beaten out Alex Smith of June 2008. That's the figure that loomed largest in Smith's head. As May minicamps turned into June organized team activities, there was a certain snap to Smith's throws that observers hadn't seen for two years. The spirals were tight, the throws on target. McCloughan recently said Smith looked better than he had at any point in his NFL career. He also is in the best situation of his career. Nolan, the coach with whom Smith waged a cold war for the past year and a half, is gone. Smith isn't being forced into an offense that doesn't fit his strengths.
While I would love nothing more to see Alex succeed on this team, I do not think it would be wise for him to start. The chief reason being, Hill showed us last year that he deserves the starting role.

And until he shows us that he can't handle it (by his play), it should remain his job.

Also, imagine if Smith starts and then tanks. It would be detrimental to the morale of our team, and all but erase the (little) progress that we made last year.

Alex is young, and can only benefit by sitting awhile longer and learning.
Shaun Hill: wins games
There are a couple of things I disagree within your writeup... Please don't take these as Pro Smith or Pro Hill comments. These are just facts about both players...

You had Said Smith hasn't came in off the bench since he came to the NFL, when in fact he did that his rookie year.

You said the limited passing game would be better for Hill... In fact Smith averages 20 attempts per start where Hill averages 36. This contradicts what you wrote.

As for opening up the O... Hill has proven he has the ability to get the team in for the TD (averaging 2 TD's per start). Smith (where we all hope he is better then ever) has struggled. He's only averaged 1 TD for every 2 starts.

Overall good writeup....
There is no argument until these two go out and perform. Until then it's Shaun Hill's job to lose. He has been the better QB.
  • Squirrel
  • Info N/A
Originally posted by MadDog49er:
Bold 2010 Prediction: There will not be a QB controversy for the Niners in 2010. Either Hill will show that he is a starter in this league, or not. Smith will show that he is a stable franchise QB to build a team around. Or, the Niners will target a QB in free agency or the draft, to start right away.

Cheers.




Yeah, that's bold. You only left off one option: Things remain the status quo. That's like saying the 49ers will either win or lose their first preseason game.
Originally posted by D_Niner:
There are a couple of things I disagree within your writeup... Please don't take these as Pro Smith or Pro Hill comments. These are just facts about both players...

You had Said Smith hasn't came in off the bench since he came to the NFL, when in fact he did that his rookie year.

You said the limited passing game would be better for Hill... In fact Smith averages 20 attempts per start where Hill averages 36. This contradicts what you wrote.

As for opening up the O... Hill has proven he has the ability to get the team in for the TD (averaging 2 TD's per start). Smith (where we all hope he is better then ever) has struggled. He's only averaged 1 TD for every 2 starts.

Overall good writeup....

That's not contradicting anything thoush. Hill averaged those attempts b/c of the Martz system which Smith never played under. Plus just b/c Hill has more attempts that doesn't mean he wouldn't excel if he had fewer attempts, or vice versa.
Originally posted by Squirrel:
Originally posted by MadDog49er:
Bold 2010 Prediction: There will not be a QB controversy for the Niners in 2010. Either Hill will show that he is a starter in this league, or not. Smith will show that he is a stable franchise QB to build a team around. Or, the Niners will target a QB in free agency or the draft, to start right away.

Cheers.




Yeah, that's bold. You only left off one option: Things remain the status quo. That's like saying the 49ers will either win or lose their first preseason game.


The predicition is that, one way or another, "There will not be a QB controversy for the Niners in 2010." . . . and that it won't be "status quo"
Originally posted by lamontb:
Originally posted by D_Niner:
There are a couple of things I disagree within your writeup... Please don't take these as Pro Smith or Pro Hill comments. These are just facts about both players...

You had Said Smith hasn't came in off the bench since he came to the NFL, when in fact he did that his rookie year.

You said the limited passing game would be better for Hill... In fact Smith averages 20 attempts per start where Hill averages 36. This contradicts what you wrote.

As for opening up the O... Hill has proven he has the ability to get the team in for the TD (averaging 2 TD's per start). Smith (where we all hope he is better then ever) has struggled. He's only averaged 1 TD for every 2 starts.

Overall good writeup....

That's not contradicting anything thoush. Hill averaged those attempts b/c of the Martz system which Smith never played under. Plus just b/c Hill has more attempts that doesn't mean he wouldn't excel if he had fewer attempts, or vice versa.

Look, I'm just presenting the facts... I can't help who Hill played under and Smith didn't. If you want it broken down more, I can do that for ya...

Hill under Martz = 32 attempts average with 62.8% completions.
Hill under Hos = 26 attempts average with 68.4% completions.

Smith under Hos = 28 attempts average with 48.7% completions.
Smith under Norv = 28 attempts average with 58.1% completions.
Smith under McCarthy = 18 attempts average with 50.9% completions

The contradiction to his statement is when he stated that the lower pass attempts #s would favor Hill. The facts say that Hill is more than competent (just as Smith is) to throw for 30-40 attempts in a game. If higher attempts per game favors either QB, I would think it's slightly in Hill's favor because of the completion %...

[ Edited by D_Niner on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:01:08 ]
glenn d ickey recently wrote in the san francisco examiner a column wherein he said that smith should start....he thinks that defenses will catch up to hill and his lack of physical skills.....he cites as an example how the rams adjusted in their 2nd game last year to make hill look pretty bad
Originally posted by D_Niner:
Originally posted by lamontb:
Originally posted by D_Niner:
There are a couple of things I disagree within your writeup... Please don't take these as Pro Smith or Pro Hill comments. These are just facts about both players...

You had Said Smith hasn't came in off the bench since he came to the NFL, when in fact he did that his rookie year.

You said the limited passing game would be better for Hill... In fact Smith averages 20 attempts per start where Hill averages 36. This contradicts what you wrote.

As for opening up the O... Hill has proven he has the ability to get the team in for the TD (averaging 2 TD's per start). Smith (where we all hope he is better then ever) has struggled. He's only averaged 1 TD for every 2 starts.

Overall good writeup....

That's not contradicting anything thoush. Hill averaged those attempts b/c of the Martz system which Smith never played under. Plus just b/c Hill has more attempts that doesn't mean he wouldn't excel if he had fewer attempts, or vice versa.

Look, I'm just presenting the facts... I can't help who Hill played under and Smith didn't. If you want it broken down more, I can do that for ya...

Hill under Martz = 32 attempts average with 62.8% completions.
Hill under Hos = 26 attempts average with 68.4% completions.

Smith under Hos = 28 attempts average with 48.7% completions.
Smith under Norv = 28 attempts average with 58.1% completions.
Smith under McCarthy = 18 attempts average with 50.9% completions

The contradiction to his statement is when he stated that the lower pass attempts #s would favor Hill. The facts say that Hill is more than competent (just as Smith is) to throw for 30-40 attempts in a game. If higher attempts per game favors either QB, I would think it's slightly in Hill's favor because of the completion %...

But it's not a contradiction to say that a guy would be better with fewer attempts, just b/c he averages a couple more attempts a game. And looking at those numbers posted that really isn't any significant difference in attempts. Plus attempts doesn't represent success. It's just like saying the Lakers are a better team when Kobe only has to take 15-17 shots while he's averaging 30 shots a game. Doesn't mean Kobe isn't capable of still getting the team wins when taking a lot of shots, but that it would be more beneficial to his game and the teams overall game if he took less shots. Of course Hill isn't on a Kobe level. I just don't think he meant that Hill can't get it done, but it would be better and more beneficial if the offense was more controlled with less throwing. But he wrote it so i can't say exactly what he meant that's just how I took it. I don't see it as a knock or a contradictory statement.
Originally posted by D_Niner:
There are a couple of things I disagree within your writeup... Please don't take these as Pro Smith or Pro Hill comments. These are just facts about both players...

You had Said Smith hasn't came in off the bench since he came to the NFL, when in fact he did that his rookie year.

You said the limited passing game would be better for Hill... In fact Smith averages 20 attempts per start where Hill averages 36. This contradicts what you wrote.

As for opening up the O... Hill has proven he has the ability to get the team in for the TD (averaging 2 TD's per start). Smith (where we all hope he is better then ever) has struggled. He's only averaged 1 TD for every 2 starts.

Overall good writeup....

Thanks for the response. Smith did indeed sit as a backup the first four games of 2005 to Tim Rattay, played the next two games, sat with injuries the next five, and then finished the last five games of the season. He did spot backup duty two of the first four games. So, he did sit the first month of his career. Thanks for the correction.

As for attempts per game, Hill threw 32 times per game in 2008 (under pass-happy Martz), considerably less in 2007, with 26.3 attempts per game. I think the Niners will even be more conservative under Hill than in 2007. Hence, the 20-25 throws per game for Hill.

As for Smith averaging fewer throws per start in his career, your numbers are somewhat off (I've listed the numbers below). The Niners brought him along slowly as a rookie in 2005 (22 throws/game as a starter); Norv Turner's power rushing game in 2006 (about 27.5 throws/game); the injury year in 2007 about the same (27.7 throws game). I think the older version of Smith will finally be free to throw the ball more often, and I expect something near 30 passes/game (the kiddie wheels will surely be kicked out from the bike).

It will surely be fun to watch, either way it works out.