WE HAVE A WINNER!: No one
The competition is over. The starter has been named. And yet, the certainty that should come with such a decision does not. The 49ers QB situation in the short-term has been solved, but the situation in the long-term is fuzzier than ever.
A carpenter is nothing without tools. You can build a house (maybe more of a lean-to) without any, but I don’t like your chances of having granite countertops and a 5-piece oak dinette set. Your survival is surely intact, for you have a roof over your head, but your situation would be a lot better if you had used a hammer and nails.
Such is the quarterback situation in San Francisco.
Shaun Hill, the gutty, ugly gamer has been handed the keys. Alex Smith, the former #1 overall pick, has been relegated to a supporting role. And the ghosts of great quarterbacks past continue waiting with baited breath for the next great 49er signal-caller.
Two things I know:
1) Alex Smith isn’t it. While I am first in line to distribute the flyer outlining the myriad excuses for Smith (many of which are completely justified…there I did it again), it doesn’t take an advanced degree in football to realize that he is not the heir apparent to the legacy.
2) Shaun Hill isn’t it, either. I appreciate intangibles more than most (it’s why Bryant Young is one of my co-favorite all-time 49ers), but I appreciate tangibles even more. And Shaun Hill has none. His complete and total lack of arm strength is well-documented. I haven’t watched every piece of film from 1950 to the present, but no great QB I’ve ever heard of has thrown a “clean” pass that was called tipped by officials. Just let that soak for a minute…he threw a pass in an NFL game that looked like something my 4-year old niece would do. What guts he almost surely must have………………………….
The news is not all bad, though. The quarterback in the 49ers 2009 offense is going to be primarily responsible for getting the ball safely from the center to Frank Gore, Glen Coffee, and anyone else who is willing to stand back there. The occasional pass to Vernon Davis might also be required.
The old football adage that says, “if you have two quarterbacks, you have zero” rings as true as the law of gravity. The truth is no matter who won the competition, each has tremendous flaws. Hill won the job because he was the “reigning champ” so to speak, and he appears to have won a decision of some sort (whether it was split or unanimous is anybody’s guess). But wouldn’t any of us be a little more excited had he actually put a significant gap between himself and the guy who, #1 pick or not, was coming off two years of injuries?
The best case scenario for the 49ers is for Hill to hold the fort down while the rest of the team continues to progress, then hope that young prospect Nate Davis, or a QB plucked from the draft with one of the 49ers two first-round picks in 2010, steps in sometime down the line to lead the team.
The path to a division title is not all that rocky: Seattle, Arizona, and St. Louis provide very little in the way of mammoth obstacles. With the potential on the defensive side of the ball, the offense may not need to do much. And the promise Glen Coffee has shown in preseason has given me visions of an epic one-two punch working drives with run-pass ratios of 14:2. Regardless of who is playing QB, the expectations are not terribly daunting: don’t make stupid mistakes, be efficient, and throw it deep thrice a game.
Nevertheless, I’m not entirely sure I trust Hill to do all three of those things. I’m not entirely sure I trust Smith to do them, either. And that’s the foundation for a quarterback carousel.
Hill may have won the competition, but in the end, there are no winners. Another year drifts by with no answers at quarterback. The possibility of adding a quarterback with a high draft pick looms again. And the search for a championship QB stampedes on for the 7th (or 10th, depending on who you ask) year in a row.