Smith the Favorite? Bad Move.

Jul 27, 2009 at 8:19 PM

The buzz around the 49ers front office is that officials are all pulling for Alex Smith to win the starting quarterback role this season. We hear this from blogger extraordinaire Matt Maiocco and Matt Bowen from the National Football Post. Bowen goes so far as to say, "that everyone inside the building is pulling for quarterback Alex Smith to win the starting job in camp. Publicly, it's being called an open competition, but a source close to the Niners told us that he believes Smith will win the job."

I'm all for the feel good story of Alex the Phoenix. I'm all for the 49ers being vindicated in their #1 overall choice. But the simple fact is that having this outlook skews evaluators and could put the 49ers' quarterback position in further jeopardy.

Alex Smith had one average season. Just one. He showed some flashes - most notably that rainy game against Seattle where he waltzed in the end zone on a naked bootleg, ball raised in victory.

Let's not forget, though, that Smith is still young in NFL terms. He turned 25 in May of this year. After two shoulder surgeries he is finally back at 100%. Smith has the ability to start fresh this season and have the career he should have had in 2005.

But with "everyone in the building" (Singletary included?) privately pulling for Smith (and why wouldn't they? Heck, they drafted him #1 overall) it makes it all the more likely that he will be rushed onto the field a tad early. And rushing Smith to the field is a recipe for disaster.

Smith's problems on the field were never physical, save the games where he tried playing with a separated shoulder. Smith's problems were in his ability to digest an offense and read schemes. Urban Meyer might as well be freakin' Nostradamous and his famous "non-functional" quote pretty much hit the nail on the head.

Smith needs time to assimilate the offense. He needs time to watch and learn from someone other than Tim Rattay and Trent Dilfer. He needs time to get back to being the Alex Smith the 49ers wanted when they drafted him first overall.

Shaun Hill provides Smith with his momentary reprieve. Hill can win a few games. Despite having lackluster physical skills, Hill can lead the team for a few weeks until the issue of starting Smith is more than a whisper because of the lack of on field results. This is when the team should act. When Hill starts to slip a little - that way Smith starting is an easy sell because right now this team needs to be sold to fans. The "faithful" would rather go to church and pray for a win than spend money on season tickets.

Imagine this scenario: Hill starts the season. He wins a couple games, he probably loses a few more (let's not be mistaken, the 49ers will lose their fair share of games) and eventually the need for a change arises.

By week 8 a revitalized Smith, with time under his belt to assimilate Jimmy Raye's offense, enters the game and is able to play and use his physical skills, rather than think about which receiver is supposed to be open. He is given every chance possible.

And if it doesn't work out? Then the 49ers can officially call an end to the Smith experiment. He would have been healthy, he would have had time to digest the offense, and there would be no excuses. The 49ers can move on and draft a quarterback next year and attempt to learn from their mistakes.

Or they can rush Smith over Hill and basically ignore the fact that Hill at the very least deserves the chance to open the season as the starting quarterback. Hill is renowned for not being a practice player but he delivers on Sunday. Who knows, Hill could start the season and play so well that the issue of starting Smith is forgotten. That's a win for the 49ers too.

Rushing Smith into action is pretty much the one bad move the team can make and right now, they seem to be intent on making it.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • charles
    Give alex a chance- who are we as mere fans to judge pro talent? Enough of the Alex Smith bashing--he has not played a preseason game yet!!!!!
    Jul 29, 2009 at 5:01 PM
    Response: I do want to give him a chance. I just want to give him a chance under the best circumstances.
  • Jensen Hecita
    Just wanna say I couldnt agree more with exactly what Oscar said. Even if Smith is showing great potential, he should not start. He had his chance and he screwed up. Shaun Hill is 7-3 as a starter aka over .500 something we havent been in like what 5 years. He may not look pretty but he gets the job done and thats all you can ask for, hes given us hope for the last 2 seasons the way he ended the last 2 years, and yet we still dont want to start him ? hes still not good enough? Completely ridiculous. Remember Shaun Hill was in the same situation where he shouldve started the begining of 08. and well, look where that got us? A fired coach and coordinator and another losing season
    Jul 29, 2009 at 10:37 AM
    Response: I think Hill deserves a shot as well.
  • TOM
    Jul 28, 2009 at 10:16 PM
    Response: So start Hill. And if he produces, keep him in there. But at least give him the shot instead of starting Smith from day 1.
  • luis regueira
    Alex Smith has had more than enough time to digest everything he needs to during the last couple of years. the guy is doing everything he is supposed to do to win and earn his job. he deserves to start for everything he has been put through. he took the pay cut. he is passing accurately and showing leadership. what else do you want? hill will serve as a nice reliable back up. we need a good back and i am thankful to have a proven guy who can step in. smith should and will win this job.
    Jul 28, 2009 at 4:56 AM
    Response: This is a new offense for Hill and Smith. It will be similar to Turner's offense from 2006, but who knows where the similarities begin or end. I would agree that Smith is showing some stuff - but has he really shown leadership? By all accounts that's where Hill is clearly better than Smith. Smith is more of a lead by example type guy and Hill is a light a fire under your arce kind of guy. And to answer your question - I want to give Smith time for him to fully digest the offense and to get over some of the mental barriers after an injury so that he has every opportunity to succeed.
  • Jersey9er
    Well i agree rushing him onto the field would be a disaster, but at the same time, it´s a new offense for both smith and hill. If raye´s run first offense is supposed to be not too complicated, with the naked bootlegs, and screen pass plays, i feel that both qbs would do well. I say if Alex shows that he can command the offense the exact same way that hill has, then you have to go with smith. Don´t forget smith is almost running the same offense in which he had his best season under norv. and they say that raye has spoken to norv about the team he had in 06 and probably what attributes are the best. under that norv offense he said smith threw one of the best and accurate deep balls he has ever seen. So i say other than hill just playing the end of last season, i think that they are on an equal playing level, with hill the egde as you said just because he finished last season. But if they are in a dead heat in the preseason, then you have to go with the one that shows the more physical tools.
    Jul 28, 2009 at 2:43 AM
    Response: I think that all things being equal you have to go with Hill. Hill has proven that he can win games in an unfamiliar system. (The Martz system was new to Hill, too). He has proven that he can take a leadership role on the team. Smith would really have to outplay Hill by a convincing margin to start day 1 and I don't think that is going to happen.
  • Colfax Fan
    Ok. I'm offically done with the Hill bs. "Despite having lackluster physical skills", what the hell are you talking about? He has been in the nfl for how many years. He is 7-3 with our team. F lackluster skills. I have seen way to many lackluster skills from the niners over the past several years, but they have not come from Sean Hill. Do you ever sit back for a few minutes and read the s**t you write?
    Jul 27, 2009 at 11:27 PM
    Response: When I say lackluster physical skills I mean his arm strength, his mobility, his speed - you know - the areas where Alex Smith has him beat in terms of physical tools. This doesn't mean Hill can't win games. He certainly can. We can argue about his ability to win games all day. What is clear from watching film is that when it comes to physical tools, Shaun Hill isn't the most gifted. Oh, and it's SHAUN Hill. Apparently you don't sit back and read the "stuff" you write either.

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