Alex Smith and the 49ers QB1 position

Although we still have two days of OTAs left (tomorrow and Tuesday), we've reached a point where I think we can ask the following question: What would it take in the next 2+ months for Alex Smith to be the starting QB week 1 of the regular season?  Maiocco had an article about this issue a couple days back and I thought why not roll out our own discussion on a nice Sunday in June.  The easy answer is him performing well in the preseason and Shaun Hill struggling on the playing field.  Hill is always described as a game-time performer who struggles in practice while Smith performs well in practice and struggles during games.

So, let's pretend that Hill performs perfectly fine.  Maybe not superstar performance, but he doesn't shoot himself in the foot.  Would Alex Smith be able to surpass that sufficiently to become the starter week 1?  I would have to guess no.  I think we have to consider Shaun Hill the incumbent starter.  Mike Singletary wouldn't name him the 2009 starter at season's end, but Hill was the starter at season's end, so that would likely weigh in his favor.  If that's the case, one would imagine tie goes to him...yes?

The big problem in all this centers on Smith's past injuries.  What exactly does he bring to the table at this point?  He looks solid in practice, but he hasn't played in a regular season game since Week 10 of the 2007 season.  He hasn't looked good in a game since probably 2006.  It's just not a simple decision to make.  Or maybe it is because of what I've mentioned above?  Maiocco had an interesting comment about it:

So what does Smith have to do to win the job? He not only has to outplay Hill in practice, he has to outplay him by a considerable margin. And, even then, it might not be enough for Singletary to go with him over Hill.

Smith has to prove to Singletary that Hill is not the only quarterback on the team with those same hard-to-define qualities.

As he mentioned earlier in the post, those hard-to-define qualities are leadership, quiet confidence and an edge to him.  The problem with those characteristics is you simply can't measure them.  I'd like to think Singletary would know them when he saw them, but even still, it's still preseason.  Any confidence in preseason action would be somewhat inflated by weaker competition.

Whatever does happen, that first preseason game (August 14 vs. Denver) will give us some insight into where things stack up.  Who will be starting, who will see more playing time, etc, etc, etc.  Just one more reason to be especially intrigued by preseason games.

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