Now I can see why it took Mike Singletary so long to make a decision in training camp about the 49ers starting quarterback. Singletary named long forgotten and former number one draft pick Alex Smith as the starter against the Colts on Sunday. In the back of his mind he probably had Smith as the starter all along but went with the proven quarterback Shaun Hill who is 8-6 as a starter for the Niners. Singletary made the announcement yesterday on October 26. Last year on October 26 in Singletary’s first game as interim head coach he pulled quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan out of the game against the Seahawks and put in Hill who started the rest of the season and up until week seven of this year. Is there something about the week before Halloween that makes Singletary feel as if he needs to make a change at quarterback? I wonder what he will do next year? Joking aside, making a quarterback change on the same day as you did last year is not a sign of Singletary being erratic with who should start as the quarterback but a sign that the organization is erratic in trying to find a starting quarterback that can be successful in the NFL and lead a powerful offense.
The peaks and valleys that has been Alex Smith’s career is at about its third peak after years of being stuck down in the valley. Watching Smith run the 49ers offense and pass for three touchdowns against the Texans I was more concerned about the 49ers winning the game than who was under center. After watching the 49ers lose I was able to take it all in and realized that Smith who had not played in the regular season since November 12, 2007 had just showed that the 49ers do have a passing game. With Smith’s success and Singletary known for wanting to put the best 11 players on the field that he believes gives the team the best chance to win, see Michael Crabtree, I was almost certain that Singletary would name Smith the starter. Coming to that conclusion and hearing the news this morning I am still nervous about Smith being named the QB.
Reasons to be worried:
- Smith did come into the game against the Texans down by 21 points and almost lead the team to a comeback win. But how much of that was the Texans defense coming out after half-time and taking off the third quarter thinking they had the game won especially with a backup quarterback inserted into the game?
- With the 49er down by three touchdowns offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye went away from running the football and was forced to pass to lessen the deficit. Raye had Smith mostly running the spread offense which Smith is clearly comfortable with as he ran the same offense while at the University of Utah. With running back Frank Gore back in the lineup after missing three games with an injury I doubt Raye will deviate away from his run, run, run mentality but with Smith as the starter he might want to call more plays in the spread offense formation to make Smith effective against the Colts defense.
- The 49ers offensive line is a wreck on the right side and it showed against the Texans. Without stone foot Shaun Hill dropping back in the second-half the line did improve their play as Smith did not get sacked but that has more to do with Smith’s scrambling abilities than the play of the line. Smith will be running often against the Colts as the defense will look to get after Smith who will be making his first start in almost two years.
- It will be interesting to see how Smith plays for a full game. Smith has been called a cerebral quarterback but has been criticized for thinking too much which resulted in sacks and bad decisions. As Smith found his team down by three scores he had to score as quickly as possible which left no time for Smith to think about the play too much and rely on his instincts which were right on almost all of the plays expect for his last pass which was intercepted and ended the game. I am not sure how Smith will handle running a normal offense that is not in hurry up mode to try to quickly score.
Reason to be excited:
- Even though Alex Smith was drafted in 2005 he is only 25 years old. That is young by NFL QB standards so I can see why the 49ers held onto Smith knowing his potential and knowing that his first four seasons in the NFL have been a bumping road. Smith was named the starter half way through his rookie season in 2005, took all the snaps under center in 2006, played hurt for seven games in 2007, was on injured reserve in 2008 and was a backup through the first seven weeks of the season this year. Most quarterbacks stay on the bench for their first two to three years learning the offense and adjusting to the NFL and find success once on the field (see Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer). Smith found himself on a horrible 49ers team looking for anyone to play center and was forced out onto the field. Unless you are Peyton Manning most starting rookie quarterbacks don’t mature into long NFL careers. Smith has now had his time to learn and regain his confidence. Hopefully he can translate all of his knowledge into a successful offense.
- After two straight games where the defense was the main reason for the losses which in turn made the offense anemic forcing them to try to come back from big deficits maybe this is the type of change the 49ers offense needs. Shaun Hill did his job in managing the game and ran the offense well while they were ahead or down by a few points but when it came time for the offense to comeback and score Hill could not get the job done. Smith showed he can remain calm under pressure situations when down by a big deficit.
- One of the reasons for Smith being named the starter was that he was impressive in training camp and continued impressing in practice. Both don’t count and are meaningless but Singletary knows what Smith is capable of doing and he showed that against the Texans. Smith also sacrificed more than $16 million to remain with the Niners to prove not only to himself but to the organization that drafted him, the 49er Faithful and to all of those, including me, who wrote him off as another number one pick draft bust.
Now is your time to shine Alex, the 49er Faithful wait for you to change our minds about what you are capable of doing on the field. Let’s hope he gets things started on Sunday against the Colts and ends the 49ers two game losing streak.
Topics: 49ers, 49ers 2009 Season, 49ers Offensive Coordinator, 49ers QB, 49ers Quarterback, 49ers Training Camp, Alex Smith, Alex Smith Named Starter Against The Colts, Frank Gore, J.T. O'Sullivan, Jimmy Raye, Michael Crabtree, Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers, Scot McCloughan, Shaun Hill