"In Shaun We Trust" Is More of a Question than a Statement for 49er Fans

Jeff DickinsonCorrespondent IAugust 30, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 14:  Quarterback Shaun Hill #13 of the San Francisco 49ers passes against the Denver Broncos during the preseason game on August 14, 2009 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

For the love of Joe Montana, will the San Francisco 49ers please find a franchise quarterback in the foreseeable future?

That has to be one of the burning questions San Francisco fans awake to in a cold sweat in the middle of the night on more than a few occasions.

But that question was finally put to rest this week when head coach Mike Singletary named Shaun Hill the starter for the 2009 NFL season over previous No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith.

You’re not convinced that Hill is the answer to San Francisco’s quarterback question this season? I can’t imagine why you have your doubts.

Why do you question Hill’s credentials, ye of little 49er faith?

What’s that? You say he wasn’t even drafted out of college? Neither was Kurt Warner.

You say that he has only thrown 18 touchdown passes since he came into the league in 2005? You say that he doesn’t have a strong arm, and that he’s about as mobile as Brett Favre in coveralls on his Mississippi farm?

So, why exactly did Singletary choose Hill over Smith again? You could say it was because Hill has more poise than Smith, leading the 49ers to a 5-3 record after being named the starter last season. You could say it’s because Hill has completed 64 percent of his passes during his NFL career.

However, you could also say that Singletary picked Hill as the starting quarterback because there weren’t many other feasible options. Smith didn’t play last season because of injury and has been ineffective for most of his young NFL career.

The 49ers did try to woo Warner away from Arizona in the offseason, only to be spurned when he re-signed with the Cardinals.

A team with a franchise quarterback doesn’t go looking for another one during the offseason.

Whatever the reasons for Singletary’s quarterback selection, San Francisco fans will have to get used to seeing Hill behind centerat least until he has a bad game.

While that might not make fans giddy with excitement, there are other burning questions surrounding the 49ers as they enter the upcoming NFL season.

1. What is going to happen with Michael Crabtree?

Crabtree, who was almost guaranteed a starting spot in the San Francisco receiving corps this season, is still unsigned.

He has caused turmoil in the front office, and he will cause more in the locker room once he does sign.

Even if Crabtree signs in the coming days, he will definitely not be ready to play when the 49ers open the season Sept. 13 at Arizona. Crabtree will have to learn the playbook, work on his timing with Hill, and learn to adapt to life in the NFL.

If Crabtree gets his act together and signs soon, don’t expect anything significant from him until at least the third or fourth game of the season.

2. Can two of the most important 49ersPatrick Willis and Frank Gorestay healthy this season?

As Patrick Willis goes, so goes the San Francisco defense.

Willis injured his ankle in preseason and has missed the first two exhibition games. He is expected back at full strength by the season opener, but the 49ers can ill-afford to have Willis miss any playing time this season.

Gore has been a workhorse for the 49ers the past three seasons, carrying the ball 812 times. Singletary has to like the looks of rookie Glen Coffee, though, to give Gore a breather this season. Coffee rushed for 129 yards in the team’s second exhibition game and has looked very impressive thus far.

The 49ers need Gore to be healthy so defenses can’t key on forcing them to throw.

3. Will the loss of fullback Zak Keasey hurt the 49ers this season?

Fullbacks usually only get attention when they do something wrong, like fumble or head down the field in the wrong direction.

When San Francisco lost fullback Zak Keasey to a season-ending injury in the first exhibition game, though, it was a significant blow.

Gore is one of the best running backs in the league, but he still needs help finding holes in which to run. Moran Norris will be the starter for San Francisco at fullback this season, but Keasey was also going to see significant playing time.

If Norris gets injured, Gore could find the running lanes a little narrower this season.


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