So, the inevitable finally went down yesterday and 49ers Coach Mike Singletary ended the charade of the team's quarterback controversy and named Shaun Hill, the heavily favored incumbent, the starter over that upstart underdog challenger, Alex Smith.
In other news, water is still wet, Oprah is still fat, and Glenn Beck is still a jackass.
I'd maintained from the very beginning, that despite all of Singletary's protests to the contrary, it was never a fair or equal competition, just as most contests in life are neither fair, nor even.
Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye likened it to a championship bout, saying "You have to knock the champion out to win; you can't fight him to a draw."
But to be honest, it wasn't even a draw.
Hill was just better.
Singletary likes Hill, he knows what he has in him and even if he doesn't necessarily respect his talent - and why on god's green earth would he? - he appreciates the guy's moxie.
That Hill thinks he's a lot better than he is isn't rare for a pro athlete, but the way he gets the other ten ne'erdowells in the huddle to buy into what he's selling is what makes him, if not special, then at least useful.
From day one of camp Hill treated this so-called competition as little more than a trivial annoyance, like having to do the sixth interview of the day when Bob, the PR guy said there'd only be five.
Hill's attitude all along was not if he was going to be given the job, but when. He made sure to let the media know that he'd like the issue to be settled tootsweet, giving him all the more time to work with his receivers to get the timing down on his offense.
His comments about how practice will be different, now that he's the official starter were most telling. "I feel like if there are things that need to be tweaked or changed that I feel more comfortable expressing those things now where before you can't really do that because it changes for all the quarterbacks. But now we'll be able to do things here and there that will make me more comfortable," he said.
In other words, now that it's my show, we can get serious about practice.
Smith is Hill's counterpoint. He's got the draft pedigree, the athleticism, a much stronger arm (two shoulder operations made me forget that this guy used to be able to fling the ball at a pretty good clip), and the backing of the team's owners, desperate to prove that they didn't draft a bust.
What he doesn't have though, is poise, confidence, or the ability to inspire others.
He just looks nervous out there; not Jeff Garcia-jittery in the pocket, but definitely without that Peyton Manning statuesque presence.
Give Smith credit. He is working hard to overcome his faults. He has been diligent about projecting a tall, upright profile when on the podium with the media. He keeps his voice firm and his answers unwavering.
He is trying to look and sound the part, the act that Hill's had down from the beginning.
But it's just not translating on the field.
Singletary, for his part, tipped his hand a bit on what he really thought of Smith before training camp started on Monday. The thing he went back to repeatedly in praising Smith was how he's fought through and overcome his injuries and surgeries.
The coach's manner seemed to suggest that all along he thought Smith was so fragile, both physically and emotionally, that the first hit he took in a preseason game or the first interception he threw in camp would surely send Smith back into the abyss; out of sight and out of mind.
Smith has impressed Singletary with his toughness and resolve, if nothing else. He's got the heart of a football player. Now he just needs to show that he can play quarterback, and that's the hard part.
"The shot is going to come," Smith predicted. "The opportunity is going to come. The question is whether you're going to be ready for it when it does?"
The real question is how many opportunities is he going to get?
Who Does Number Two Work For?
What made Monday's presser doubly uncomfortable for Smith, was Singletary's unnecessary posturing and spin. Unfortunately, the more the Hall of Fame linebacker gets used to this coaching thing, the less honest he gets and the more clichés he uses.
Yesterday was a classic example that coach-speak mixed with political correctness to not hurt anyone's feelings can be a dangerous thing. Singletary went off on a long tangent that he doesn't want Smith or any other reserve on the team to think of himself as a backup but rather "a number two."
But it got better.
Singletary's political correctness was akin to midgets preferring to be called "little people" in that the new name is more insulting than the original.
"They’re only number twos because they’re not as good as number ones, for whatever reason," Singletary said.
So don't feel bad that you, a former number one overall pick, are backing up an undrafted guy with a noodle arm, Alex. It's just because you're not as good as Shaun is at playing football.
Good pep talk, coach.
I bet Smith totally feels like a number two right now.
Meanwhile, In Non-Quarterbacking News...
Singletary sort of, announced that another camp battle for a starting spot had been unofficially decided on Monday, when he said that while right tackle Adam Snyder's sprained right knee will likely keep him out of the third preseason game at Dallas. The team fully expects him to be starting the opener at Arizona on September 13th.
The team has just not been able to gauge what they have in Marvel Smith, whom they signed as a free agent away from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Smith had back surgery last year and the recovery has been a slow process, with team doctors not giving him the go ahead to practice both ends of a two-a-day and sometimes not even on consecutive days.
Smith will get the first crack to show his stuff in the week Snyder will miss, but the coaches have been very impressed with Snyder, particularly his run blocking.
The other starting job up for grabs has been the right cornerback spot, and even though Tarell Brown is finally back as a full participant in practice after being out with a sprained toe for most of camp, all the first team reps are still going to Dre' Bly.
Bly was inconsistent and sluggish the first few practices, but has turned a corner ever since the first preseason game versus his old team, the Denver Broncos. Ever since then, he's probably been their best overall defensive back. He was excellent in the practices in Napa against the Raiders and solid again in the actual game with Oakland at Candlestick Park last Saturday.
Brown has his work cut out for him to make up for lost time.
How About Pop Warner?
Speaking of the Raiders, rookie running back Glen Coffee wasn't all too impressed with their run defense, believe it or not, after Oakland held him to a mere 129 yards on 16 first half carries.
He described the running lanes as, "huge" and said the game was, "easy."
"I don't think I've had a game like that in high school or college," he added.
Might be worth noting if you've got a fantasy running back dilemma and one of them has Oakland’s coming up on the ol' schedule.
To be fair, I say the same things about tight ends and the 49ers defense.
The Amazing Shrinking Injury Report
Only four of 80 49ers weren't practicing Tuesday morning.
Left guard David Baas is still working his way back from a sprained foot and he was doing individual drills with trainers.
Receiver Brandon Jones has that fracture in his right AC joint (shoulder) and he will be out another six weeks, minimum.
Snyder had a brace on his knee and he was walking around, as was Smith, who had a splint on his right thumb after spraining it while making a tackle on Saturday night.
Defensive end Ray McDonald also had a brace on his right knee, but he was moving around pretty well for a guy just removed from the PUP list for having offseason knee surgery.
However, upon eavesdropping on an interview McDonald was doing with another reporter and hearing his prediction for how many sacks he would have this season, it might be wise to check McDonald for a concussion, just to be safe.