Shaun Hill: The Leader that Smith Isn’t

Dec 16, 2007 at 10:15 AM


Many of the news stories we read after the fact are run of the mill summaries or commentaries on the just-completed game. But after Alex Smith-gate I can't help but read into some of the comments the players make after the game or some of the observations the press, who spend an awful lot of time around the players, make.

In reading this weeks summaries and post game quotes, I couldn't help but feel bad for Alex Smith. This team is starved for a leader that doesn't dress in suits on game days. They have plenty of veterans, and plenty of player-coaches (see: Trent Dilfer). The team seems to lack a true outspoken leader, though.

Sure, the team has outspoken players (see: Vernon Davis) but rarely are those players seen as leaders. The unquestioned leader in the locker room, Bryant Young, is more on the quiet side, not to mention close enough to retirement to inadvertently get a pension check instead of a game check.

In comes Shaun Hill. Here is what the team had to say (emphasis added for effect by this columnist):

Tackle Joe Staley: "We've all known he is a natural leader. We see it every day in practice...After everything that's been going on with this team, tonight was really good. The one thing about this whole team you can say is, no matter what, we've never given up."


Receiver Darrel Jackson: "I like his swagger, the way he carries himself. He's very confident he can make every pass on the field, and it shows. He's a great leader. Guys really, really like playing with him. " Jackson was quoted in a second article as saying: "I've been waiting to get fed like that since I've been here." And in yet another article: "I thank Shaun Hill and the coaches for calling my number a lot tonight."

Running Back Frank Gore:"Shaun is very hungry. He gave us a shot."

Tight End Vernon Davis:"I just love him. I felt comfortable around him ."

And finally from Mark Purdy, who admittedly has been critical of Nolan all season: "For the first time since the season opener, laughter was actually heard in the home locker room."

Sure, you can chalk up the laughter and tomfoolery between players as part of the post game euphoria. But call me paranoid, I just can't get over the language used in praising Hill.

The team seem to be saying "FINALLY! A freakin' LEADER! Take the reigns and lets go!"

Even Hill sounded like a confident starter, saying all the right things, praising the right people, and celebrating his touchdowns the right way - by letting his offensive line take the fun parts.

All these comments simply cement the fact that Smith is not seen as a team leader by his peers. (see: Smith's inability to earn a team captain spot, something voted on by players). More so than injuries or poor play, a lack of leadership could spell doom for the 49ers development as a team.

Whether or not Hill continues to shine, one thing is clear: If Smith (and by extension, Nolan) is to succeed in San Francisco he needs to assert himself in the locker room. Smith needs to fill the leadership void that Hill so easily filled.

Even more so than coaching or talent, the team needs a leader on the field. The post game quotes are pretty clear - Hill is that leader. Smith is not.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


9 Comments

  • You're all Crazy
    This is sad. Everyone hyping Hill up to the point that they believe he's the savior of the franchise. He's been OK, and her got us 1 win. Hoping for more then that out of him is foolish and is what makes most of the posts on this website laughable. You see this kind of stuff all the time. 3rd stringer comes off the bench and saves the team. For 1 or 2 games. Then BAM! Back to reality. I remember everyone on Dilfer's jock for 1 week too, after his win. I remember the poll after that win too. The question was how many think we're going to win our next game. 80% of you said yes. 2 weeks later you were all calling for his head. Personally I hope he does well, but hoping a player is good and drinking the webzone Kool-Aid is something else. I really don't think a "leadership" endorsement from a wide receiver who's biggest contribution this year has been dropped passes and wild facial hair is something to build on. It's great everyone's saying the right things, but be real. Until we improve the line and our wide receivers, all quarterbacks here will be in trouble.
    Dec 23, 2007 at 10:13 AM
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    Response: I certainly wasn't calling Hill the savior, I was just pointing out that the team seemed to be behind him in a way they weren't with Smith. After the Tampa Bay game, though, it looks like there may be something with Hill.
  • Coach Dan
    I just can't understand the negative rap on Smith. Smith was healthy for how many games? Smith played from his back-side most of the time, thanks in part to our offensive scheme from first time OC, Hostler. The play calling sucked; the offensive protection packages to pick up the blitz sucked; the passing routes (all sideline patterns) all sucked; the line sucked so much that teams didnt even need to load the box (just look at the rushing yards the first several games); and now that Nolan found his "it's-not-my-fault" card in Smith, Nolan sucks now too. I'm tired of reading all of the bloggers, fans and columnists write about what a bust Smith is, especially when most have never played the position. Sorry out there to all of you under-acheivers who actually got a few snaps in HS....you're still clueless. Here's an idea: let's let Smith get healthy and let's see if Nolan can get someone who can install a decent offensive system, or at least compliment what Norv put in place.
    Dec 18, 2007 at 5:23 PM
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  • charlimak
    Hill has played an inspiring 1 1/2 games and he has given the 49ers a needed lift that the #1 and 2 QBs and a coach couldnt give the team. Its to early to say Hill is the savior of the team, but he came out and played with some fire and confidence. He put a spark in the offence and they responded back. Im begining to believe they need a new coach and i always felt they passed up a opportnity with Aaron Rodgers, whom i felt was a better choice for the Niners than Smith. But then again if Smith was under a differently coached offence he might be better. Right now the king of the hill, is Hill.
    Dec 17, 2007 at 4:46 PM
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  • 49erSam
    I still think the jury is still out on Smith and at 23 years old he is still maturing, especially mentally. In regards to Hill's performance, Hostler and company used a much more efficient passing scheme to assist their quarterback. Many if not most of the routes were underneath and quicker developing plays . . . which allowed Hill to stay out of harms way for most of the night - not to mention we were playing the Bengals. Hill is not the savior of this organization, but he is mr. right now, because that's all we've got. If the coaches had pulled their heads out of their rear's earlier and made weekly and in-game adjustments as they did this week, we actually might have been more competitive.
    Dec 17, 2007 at 11:58 AM
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    Response: Quicker developing plays are benefitted by a quick release and quick decision making. Hill has both. I agree, though, that this is the Bengals defense. Nevertheless, we've never been able to expose other bad defenses (New Orleans, Atlanta, Minnesota). Tampa Bay will nevertheless be a good test.
  • 49erSam
    I still think the jury is still out on Smith and at 23 years old he is still maturing, especially mentally. In regards to Hill's performance, Hostler and company used a much more efficient passing scheme to assist their quarterback. Many if not most of the routes were underneath and quicker developing plays . . . which allowed Hill to stay out of harms way for most of the night - not to mention we were playing the Bengals. Hill is not the savior of this organization, but he is mr. right now, because that's all we've got. If the coaches had pulled their heads out of their rear's earlier and made weekly and in-game adjustments as they did this week, we actually might have been more competitive.
    Dec 17, 2007 at 11:22 AM
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  • mike kelly
    Alex Smith does not have IT. Actually I don't think he has any qualities that make up a pro quaterback. I saw more from Shaun Hill in 1 1/2 games than I ever saw from Smith I'm sorry the guy flat out stinks. In the Seattle game he couldn't wait to sit down someone brought him some polaroids to look at and he had this clueless look on his face like what are these. The guy can't scramble, read defenses, throw are make good decisions. The rest of the guys know it and they play that way. Shaun Hill may are may not be a good QB but hes a damn ssite better than what I've been seeing on the field. One more thing everyone says that Cinncy a bad team (really bad). We played Atlanta, St. Louis, Carolina and Baltimore if we could of beat those bad teams we would be in the playoffs nough said
    Dec 17, 2007 at 7:05 AM
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    Response: I hear you, especially about the playoffs. Beating those 4 teams puts us in the wild card picture for sure. Kinda makes it sting even more.
  • Steve
    I think it is less that they finally have a leader as much as finally having a QB that plays well. Which of course they can't say.
    Dec 16, 2007 at 7:28 PM
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    Response: But even when Smith played well, I don't think the team rallied behind him as a leader. They rallied behind him as a QB that could play well. But you're right, playing well does have something to do with it.
  • Niner
    You dont understand that NOlan knew all the time that Hill was good. He just held back not wanting to hurt Alex's feelings. (After all he is a shotgun qb) He knew his OC needed help but knew Tollner would get too much credit, so he didnt hire him earlier. The offenisve line stunk but he doesnt want to discourage teh Ol coah after 3 years. He knew tha Cincy would not score , thats why he didnt do a belechek and put the nIners up by two scores. He knew we woudl win some meaningless games so NE wouldnt get the very first pick, but now they have to dish out all that money for a top 5. Nolan has a Baltimore plan...See how well the Ravens did this week?
    Dec 16, 2007 at 5:30 PM
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    Response: Umm, yeah. Well, Nolan may not be a great coach, but I am going to presume (for your sake more than mine) that you are just being sarcastic and have fat fingers (hence the typos).
  • artx84de4089er
    I think one of Alex's leadership faults is that he's kinda like BY in that he provides leadership through his demeanor and sets the example, but without all the experience, Alex does what he needs to do, and does it pretty well, but he needs to be that vocal point in the huddle and at the line before the play is snapped. The swagger which is noted in a lot of players like Davis, Clements and Lewis is something that needs to be put on every QB's resume, and unfortunately, I don't think Alex Smith has that.
    Dec 16, 2007 at 3:06 PM
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    Response: Does a QB really need swagger? Can you be a leader without swagger? I'm not sure, but I would be inclined to say you have to have SOMETHING, even if it's not "swagger" in the traditional sense.

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