Why the San Francisco 49ers Should Make a Change at Quarterback

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IMarch 5, 2010

SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 4:   Quarterback Nate Davis #7 of the San Francisco 49ers scrambles with the ball against the San Diego Chargers on September 4, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.    (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

No, this is not an article suggesting that the San Francisco 49ers should draft Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen, nor that backup quarterbacks Shaun Hill or Nate Davis should take over the starting job from Alex Smith.

The former No. 1 draft choice from 2005 showed enough improvement on the field in 2009 to be the starter going into to the 2010 season.

However, if Smith were either injured or benched due to inconsistent play (and let’s face it, that is all we have ever seen from him), Shaun Hill is not the best choice to replace him.

Now prior to last season, I was in the same boat as many other 49er followers in thinking that Hill deserved a chance to lead this team out of the gate. Hill had done enough to think that his safe, ball-control style with a strong running game could get San Francisco to the playoffs.

But after what developed last season, it is clear that Hill isn’t the right fit to lead this team. With Michael Crabtree able to stretch the field and Vernon Davis becoming arguably the best tight end in football, the 49ers will have a more dynamic offense in 2010.

And to fit that style of offense which bodes big time threats in the receiving game, San Francisco is going to need a quarterback who can get them the ball down-field on a consistent basis.

Shaun Hill simply does not fit the bill.

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Nate Davis, on the other hand, can be that type of quarterback.

The former fifth-round draft choice from 2009 didn’t sniff the field nor the quarterback position during team practices last year as a rookie but impressed 49er fans in preseason.

Unfortunately, because of the way the 49ers poorly handled his development last season, Davis wasn’t ready to play in the final two games of the season. Despite the fact the 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention with two games to play against the bottom-feeding Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams, Davis didn’t see any regular season action.

Therefore, we have yet to see Davis play in regular season action so we don’t know for sure if he will be a difference-maker at the NFL level. What we do know is that he has the raw talent to be a big-time quarterback in the future.

At 6′2″ 217 pounds, Davis demonstrated in college that he could make all the throws and make the big-time play when his team needed it. In his senior season at Ball State, Davis threw for over 3,500 yards in 13 games with 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions, but the kicker was that he completed 64 percent of his passes with an impressive 8.96 YPA.

While he didn’t face truly elite competition in college, his numbers are hard to ignore and his potential is incredibly evident. While Davis does have a slight learning disability, it doesn’t mean he can’t eventually grasp the entire play book and perform at a high level.

Learning disability or not, Davis brings the most upside as a backup quarterback and should be elevated to such status over Shaun Hill. If all goes well in Niner land, Smith starts the whole season and Davis has another year to watch and learn and get more experience at practice as the No. 2 instead of the No. 3.

Then come next season, if Smith didn’t perform to a high enough level, Davis will be completely prepared to take over the starting job in 2011 if needed.

Now while Davis may not be 100 percent ready to play this season, a second training camp and preseason (where he should play at least the equivalent of two full games) should enable him to be ready enough to take over in case Smith is injured or absolutely falls apart.

Quite simply, if Smith can’t go, Davis gives the 49ers the best chance to win. And winning, more than any other year in the past four to five seasons, is going to be demanded by the fanbase. For the first time in a long time, the 49ers are going to be expected to make the postseason in 2010.

In order to make the playoffs, the 49ers need a quarterback who has all the tools. Opposing defenses don’t have to worry about a deep ball while facing Hill at quarterback, but with Davis on the field, potential deep completions of Davis to Davis and Davis to Crabtree give the 49ers a much more lethal passing attack.

With Davis under center, defenses will have to respect the second-year quarterback who owns an absolute cannon of an arm.

And with that respect, running back (and still the best weapon on the 49ers roster) Frank Gore will have room to run instead of facing eight/nine man fronts nearly every play.

Every way you slice it, Davis is the best option at backup quarterback and he should be promoted to the No. 2 role ahead of Hill come next season.

This article was originally published at NFLtouchdown.com: http://www.nfltouchdown.com/why-the-san-francisco-49ers-should-make-a-change-at-quarterback/

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