With training camp under way, and position battles heating up around the NFL, it should be noted that teams with quarterback controversies never seem to project for a winning season.
Whether it is the Cleveland Browns and the competition between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, or the Tampa Buccaneers and there 65 different quarterbacks, or finally the San Francisco 49ers with Shaun Hill and Alex Smith, each team's 2009 outlook is mediocre at best.
However, when it comes to the situation in San Francisco, there shouldn't be a "competition" between Shaun Hill and Alex Smith. Instead of wavering back and forth on whose going to be the No. 1 guy, the 49ers need to name Shaun Hill their week one starter.
If the 49ers let Hill and Smith "battle it out" during training camp, then it is crystal clear what is going to happen. The much younger and more physically gifted Smith is going to wow the coaches with pin-point accuracy on all the important throws, and will win the job because the 49ers want him to win the job.
It is well documented that Shaun Hill doesn't throw the perfect spiral, and doesn't wow coaches during drills and practices. Therefore, a "competition" during training camp clearly is advantage Smith—not only because of his athletic ability, but because he is the former No. 1 pick, and the 49ers want him to succeed.
But as naturally talented as Smith may appear on the practice field, he has never gotten it done when it actually matters. Fans can argue that his 2006 season under Norv Turner was an impressive campaign, but, in reality, it was still extremely mediocre.
In his second season, the 49ers went 7-9 and Smith finished with 16 TDs and 16 INTs, while throwing for just 2,890 yards.
In his career Smith has gone 11-19 as a starter, and had issues with both fumbling and accuracy. Yet, despite not having played in a single game since 2007, Smith is the dark horse favorite to win the starting job?
Has Smith done anything worthy enough of competing for a starting job? In the 32 total games he played in, Smith has thrown just 19 TD passes against 32 INTs, and has completed just 54.4% of his passes.
Meanwhile, "incumbent" QB Shaun Hill is having to compete to keep his job after leading the 49ers to a 7-3 record as a starter? Hill has thrown 18 career touchdowns against just nine interceptions, and completed 64% of his passes.
In fact, Hill has just one less career touchdown pass, despite having attempted less than half the career throws than Smith. Hill's 18 career TDs have come in just 367 attempts, while Smiths' 19 TDs have come in 800 attempts.
But, in spite of putting up superior numbers at QB, Hill is being punished for not having put up those numbers over a long enough span? If Hill was 19-11 (the exact opposite of Smith's career record) in 32 career games instead of 7-3 in 13 career games, then there wouldn't be a competition.
To be fair, in order for any athlete to prove their worth, they have to show they can perform over an entire season before they are taken seriously as marquee player.
Therefore, when it comes to Shaun Hill, the 49ers still don't know if he can lead them for an entire season. In fact, Hill may not have the talent to become a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL—but at this point, nobody can prove for certain that he doesn't have that capability.
Therefore, the 49ers need to find out whether Hill can be the guy, or if he truly is just a career backup. They already know that Hill can step in and perform midway through a season due to poor play or injury, but what they don't know is if he can perform for an entire 16 game season.
And in order to find that out, they need to announce him as the starter for week one.
The 49ers executives and coaches may try to explain to fans (through the media) that they have yet to see what Alex Smith brings to the table as a staring quarterback. But anything along those lines is just an attempt to get the fans okay with the idea of Alex Smith as the starter, because that is what the organization wants.
But in reality, the 49ers have already seen what Alex Smith brings to the table. He brings mediocre instincts, mediocre accuracy, fumbling issues, and injury concerns to the table— along with a lousy record as a starter throughout a full season.
Now, if both quarterbacks are healthy and ready to play on September 13th in Arizona, Shaun Hill has to be the starter.
Whether or not Alex Smith looks like Dan Marino/Brett Favre and whether or not Shaun Hill looks like Jim Druckenmiller/Ryan Leaf during training camp should not matter.
Until further notice, winning games that actually count should be the only thing that matters. As of now, Hill is a winner, and Smith is a loser.
Do we know if that is going to stay the same? No, we don't...but until proven otherwise, the starting job should be correlated with who is a winner and who is a loser.
Should the book be closed on Alex Smith? No, it shouldn't. And as a part of the 49er faithful, I believe Alex Smith has the ability to turn his career around for the better. But Smith hasn't earned the starting job, and nothing he does in training camp/preseason should earn him the starting job.
Shaun Hill has earned the starting job with his performance during the regular season, and deserves to be named the starter due to his knack for winning football games.
Perhaps Hill will fizzle come the beginning of the season, and the 49ers will start off the season with a 1-3, or 2-4 start. If that were to happen, then it makes perfect sense to make the change to Alex Smith.
However, until that happens, there shouldn't be any "competition" for the starting quarterback spot...it should belong to Shaun Hill.
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