When news broke of the 49ers signing David Carr back on March 8, I was initially quite surprised.
After giving the matter some thought, I came to the conclusion that it actually made a lot of sense. A talented, versatile, strong-armed if still unproven QB was available on the free agent market at the right time and the right price.
Signing David Carr immediately improved the 49ers’ depth at QB, as David Carr offers a stronger arm and much greater versatility and capability than Shaun Hill.
David Carr has a skill set similar to Alex Smith, allowing a more diverse and creative offensive attack and eliminating the need to change the offensive scheme drastically based on the QB under center.
In light of that, Hill’s trade later in the same week to Detroit (for a seventh-round draft pick) came as no surprise to me.
What came as a much bigger surprise was a report last week on SFGate that Alex Smith had been named the starting QB heading into training camp.
I had envisioned an open competition between Smith and Carr for the right to lead the 49er offense into the most important regular season campaign in recent memory.
I was excited about the prospect of Carr pushing Smith for the starting job in a way that Shaun Hill, with his under-powered arm and scrappy demeanor, never would have been able to, meaning that whoever emerged victorious would be stronger for the experience.
In addition, the 49ers would rest assured knowing that they had an equally capable back-up to step in should the starter become unavailable.
With this recent news that Head Coach Mike Singletary has already given Smith the vote of confidence headed into 2010, do all those hopes fall off the table?
Word out of the 49ers’ first offseason work-outs says that Alex Smith has exhibited a level of confidence in practice unseen in his professional career to date.
He has been deftly commanding the offense in the huddle, making reads at the line of scrimmage, and chirping out on-the-fly audibles in ways he never has before (I know it is only off-season drills, but still).
Part of this new-found aplomb is doubtless due to the continuity of the Jimmy Raye offense from 2009 to 2010, something Smith had yet to experience as a professional.
He graduated college with a degree in economics in less than three years and word had it that he was one of the most intelligent QBs ever to don NFL pads.
Apparently his brain wasn’t quite powerful enough to keep up with ever-shifting offensive schemes as the 49ers’ offensive coordinator position continued to be a revolving door from 2005 to 2009.
However, now that he has been able to work under the same scheme for an entire offseason, and has enjoyed a monopoly on reps with the first offensive unit, Alex Smith seems primed to put his big brain and athletic prowess on full display in 2010.
David Carr will still be able to threaten Smith enough to ensure he remains on top of his game. The Hill-led offense was pitifully unproductive last season, meaning that virtually no matter how much Smith underperformed, he stood to keep his job. With David Carr waiting in the wings, that is no longer a certainty.
If Smith can continue to develop this offseason, the 49ers offense could experience a quantum leap in production in 2010. Here’s to hoping the 49ers can protect his uber-brain better than they did Steve Young’s.
Keep the Faith!