Will Alex Smith and David Carr Compete for 49ers' Quarterback Position?

Ted SillanpaaAnalyst IMarch 8, 2010

SEATTLE , WA - DECEMBER 06:  Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers throws the ball against the Seattle Seahawks  at Qwest Field on December 6, 2009 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

New San Francisco 49ers quarterback David Carr is only 30-years-old, making him five years older than Alex Smith, but really, they're almost the same guy.

They were both chosen No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. They've both got strong arms, but lack pinpoint control and field vision at times. Smith can do more with his feet and can move better, but Carr's experience makes him more comfortable moving around in the pocket.

They're also both on the list of "Biggest Draft Busts Of All-Time."

However, they can both still play themselves out of it.

I was really pleased when Smith won the starting job back in 2010.

He's gotten a raw deal, that admittedly made him wealthy, since the 49ers drafted him. He came out of Utah's spread offense and former Niners' head coach Mike Nolan immediately announced that Smith would have to learn to take snaps under center. Not only did he have to learn to read NFL defenses, he had to learn to read them taking a 3- or 5-step drop.

Then, the Niners went through a series of offensive coordinators forcing Smith to learn something new every season.

While 49ers fans like to remember Smith's failures, the fact is that he injured his shoulder and came back too soon.

It was that injury and resulting surgery that cost him the starting job. So, those of us who like the guy's character and work ethic (and willingness to talk to the media), still feel like Smith's never had a fair shot to shine.

No one would be happier than I would if Smith emerged in the 49ers spread offense and became a solid NFL quarterback.

However, the 49ers just couldn't have signed Carr to come to camp and remain a back-up. He's just 30 and he had four seasons with the Houston Texans with quarterback ratings that all surpass Smith's best career ratings.

Carr threw far too many interceptions while in Houston. He was with an expansion team in its formative years. His early years compare to those of former NFL star Jim Plunkett more than to Smith.

Plunkett was drafted first overall by a horrendous New England Patriots organization and, almost literally, had his talent and desire beaten out of him behind a horrid offensive line, without a running game or even a single solid target.

Plunkett was sent to San Francisco where he continued to flounder and was released. Then, he signed with the Oakland Raiders for what most were sure was a full-time back up role. Oakland had Dan Pastorini in the No. 1 job. Plunkett got some time to watch the game, catch his breath and get his bearings.

Plunkett was 31-years-old when he signed with the Raiders in 1979. Pastorini couldn't hold the job, and Plunkett led the Raiders to Super Bowl titles in 1980 and 1983.

So, for all the pinheads lining up to belch that there's no way Carr's going to beat Smith out of the job—Carr still has time to become a winning NFL quarterback. And, for all the young fans who figure history started in 1999, Plunkett proves that either Smith or Carr are far from lost causes.

While I'm hoping it's Smith who starts, I can't ignore that Carr is 6'3", 216 pounds. He's a California guy who starred at Fresno State. And, unlike Smith, he has spent time in a reserve role with the New York Giants for the last two seasons. Quarterbacks learn a lot just watching, and really, Carr always had the physical tools.

It's possible that the 49ers believe that, like Plunkett did, Carr has grown and learned the game now. It's really difficult to figure out the most difficult position in the game while running for your life behind a weak offensive line.

Could it be that Carr's ready to step up and prove he's gotten it together?

Lots of people will say that there's no way Carr can turn things around. Once a failure, always a failure. Then, many will say they are 100 percent certain that Smith's failures are behind him, and he is and will be the No. 1 quarterback.

To me, however, the Carr signing just doesn't seem right. Something's up.

Carr doesn't fit the profile of a back-up quarterback on a team struggling to cement its offensive identity with a No. 1 who really hasn't convinced many people that he's the long-term answer. Smith's a guy I really like, but I'm not sure he's ever going to get the 49ers into the playoffs.

The standard back-up QB would be a veteran who wouldn't threaten Smith.

A mentor.

Oh, you didn't know that Smith's biggest problem is that he lacks the self-confidence that marks the great NFL quarterbacks? Well, that is the case, and anyone who has spent any time behind the scenes with the 49ers know it.

Smith has been as unsure of himself as he often seemed to be.

Now, as Smith is preparing to enter camp as the starting quarterback, the 49ers bring in a 30-year-old, former top draft pick who hasn't taken a serious pounding in three years. They've signed Carr—who turned down a deal with the Cleveland Browns where he most surely would've competed for the No. 1 job.

Carr's coming in to be Smith's caddy? It doesn't add up.

Smith has to come to camp playing like he did at his best in 2010. He doesn't have a career journeyman like Shaun Hill behind him. The untested Nate Davis is the No. 3 quarterback. The guy right behind Smith is virtually a carbon copy of Smith himself—with more NFL success and two seasons spent learning the game under his belt.

Smith and Carr could still both wind up on the "Biggest Draft Busts" list forever. Regardless, having them both in camp will make things more interesting for the 49ers.


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