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49ers QBs Alex Smith vs. Shaun Hill: The QB debate to end all QB debates

Fooch's Note 3:20pm: We've got a new thread to continue this continued discussion. The new thread looks at the impact of the QB change on the rushing game, and also includes Mike Singletary's Monday transcript.

Editor's note: As many expected, Mike Singletary named Alex Smith starting QB for this Sunday's game at Indianapolis. Plenty more to come, but we'll keep the discussion going here.

When I was putting together today's links, I came across a rather amusing little line over at Shutdown Corner:

Do the 49ers have a quarterback controversy? And is a 49ers quarterback controversy the NFL equivalent of a pillow fight? We can but wait and see...

The QB debate the past few years has often a bit more sad than enthralling. The 49ers have long looked for the "QB of the future," but have often been stick with mediocrity. And yet for 49ers fans, the position remains so enthralling in a car wreck kind of way. Exhibit 1: Yesterday's 49ers-Texans recap thread. The shocking return of Alex Smith has generated a whole lot of buzz in 49ers land; enough to warrant a new thread after 600+ comments in less than 12 hours.

Later today Mike Singletary will be holding his weekly Monday morning post-game press conference (around noon pacific time). usually shows it live, so either head over then, or we'll make sure to get a link up to it. In yesterday's post-game press conference, Coach Singletary indicated he hadn't made a decision yet on the QB for next week and needed to review the game tape first. While most of us think Alex Smith deserves to definitely be starting, it makes sense for Singletary to double check things on the tape. And given that today and tomorrow are not the most productive days for players in terms of practice, it makes sense not to rush this decision.

I've included a poll asking who should be starting QB next week against the Colts. I only included Nate Davis because he's a QB on the roster. Personally, and on behalf of a majority of people here, I think Nate Davis should never touch the playing field this season. That's a debate for another time, but if you strongly feel Nate Davis should be starting, and vote accordingly, please comment with reasons why.

So there are two questions then: 1) Who should start between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill, and 2) If Smith, what can we expect from him with a full week of #1 practice and the Colts game-planning accordingly?

In regards to #1, I am definitely on the start Smith side. He showed a tremendous amount of poise and skill in making numerous plays yesterday. When the pocket collapsed he moved around and his only real mistake was the interception at the end of the game on 4th down. In spite of what some folks said (a small but vocal group), I certainly won't rag him for that INT. He was the reason the 49ers were in the game and those things happen on 4th and long in desperation situations.

We answer question 2 and I give my general opinion on all this after the jump...

As for question #2, I'm really not sure what to expect from Alex Smith. After all, Smith is completely healthy for the first time in years. Is he really as good as he was yesterday, a guy on pace for 400+ yards? Obviously no QB is going to put up those kind of numbers on an everyday basis (I mean the pace he was on). But does he have the potential to throw up 300+ yards on a semi-consistent basis? Or was yesterday's performance more just something that happened due to the adrenaline of the moment?

If you think he can consistently put up those numbers, then you have to be convinced he's still got potential as QB of the future. I'm not necessarily saying he's a long term answer once again, but he does have a lot more talent at his disposal than he did back in 2007, and he's healthy for the first time since 2006. 2006 his numbers were not particularly good, but given his sign of improvement that year, maybe there's something to him after all. It's waaaaaay too early to be thinking he's back as the "franchise QB" (or even there for the first time).

So where do I stand? Well, when Shaun Hill won the job with less than stellar preseason play I really hoped he'd step up and take care of his business. However, even while winning games he was not doing that. The last two games and generally football history have shown that long term, a franchise without a once in a lifetime defense cannot be a great team without some solid QB play.

Given that the team will not be adding any QBs until at least the offseason, I kind of like the idea of giving Smith one last chance to make something of himself. In spite of all the crap he's gone through with Nolan and the press, Alex Smith has shown himself to be a man (any excuse to show that press conference is worthwhile). Even while hurt and unable to practice, he stuck around working with the QBs last season. He took a drastic paycut to compete here in San Francisco instead of potentially sitting behind a veteran elsewhere. Given all his guaranteed money from the draft that's not such a huge sacrifice, but I do think it says something about him. He's put in the time and energy and clearly wants to turn things around here in San Francisco.

One of the reasons people like Shaun Hill is they generally "like" him as a person. I think Alex Smith deserves similar praise as a person. He's 25 years old but has been through a career's worth of crap, and come out at the end not entirely the worse for wear. He's been completely supportive of Shaun Hill when many guys might have been bitter about everything. Of course liking a guy isn't sufficient to build a franchise, but it makes it easier to support a decision to elevate the player back into the starting lineup.

I have no idea what the future holds for Alex Smith. It's entirely possible he could turn himself back into a franchise QB. He could win comeback player of the year (man would that be sweet). He could also show yesterday was a fluke. These final 10 games could be it for him as a 49er. Whatever the case, if Alex Smith gets a chance to start going forward, we'll finally get an answer to the long puzzling question of how good or bad is he really as a QB. There are no more excuses. Sure the offensive line isn't great, but it's probably better than it was the year he busted up his shoulder. He's got the new offensive coordinator, but one could argue he's had sufficient time learning the playbook without playing.

There are no more excuses for Alex Smith in my opinion. People wished he had been able to sit behind a veteran for a couple years to learn how to be a QB in this league. He hasn't exactly sat behind great QBs, but maybe the last two seasons of inactivity (since the initial shoulder injury in 2007) are that time he needed to sit. Whatever the case, he potentially has a great opportunity in front of him.

Let the Alex Smith era begin, however brief or extended it might be.