It was widely thought and somewhat accepted around the Bay Area that Shaun Hill would be the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers to open the 2009 regular season. However, as the Chronicle reported Friday, with a surprisingly strong mini-camp, Alex Smith has apparently forced the 49ers to delay their decision on naming their 2009 starter.
I look at this two ways. From the future of the 49ers and Alex Smith's  standpoint, it makes sense to delay the decision a while. If the 49ers are interested in seeing if a healthy Smith could end up turning things around after a few dismal years in the league, than so be it. He's still just 25 years old and has a lot of upside in that right arm of his. It would be better for the 49ers as a franchise to have Alex Smith as the starting quarterback in 2009, but that's only if he shows he's capable. Shaun Hill isn't the starting quarterback of the future for this team. In fact, I'd be completely surprised if he lasts the whole year in that role if he indeed is named the starter. The Niners were talking with Kurt Warner in the off-season about him possibly being a 2-3 year stop-gap for them, so that shows you how much confidence they have in Hill as a starter.
Now, I'm not trying to bad mouth Hill in anyway. He's won a some games as a starter for this team and doesn't make a lot of mistakes on the field. He's been flat-out better than Alex Smith over each their time behind center, and he probably gives them a better chance to win right now, on June 15th, 2009. I'm just trying to point out that Hill is not the answer for the future, and he may not even be the answer for the full 2009 season. Smith, on the other hand, could be the starting quarterback for the next 5 years if he could find a groove and get some confidence. The 49ers have the most talented receiving corps they've ever had in Smith's tenure here, with a more seasoned Vernon Davis, the veteran Issac Bruce and the young gun Michael Crabtree. Maybe he gets in a grove with these guys and takes off. We don't know unless we give him a shot with the first team, and apparently he's looked good during those reps. I ultimately expect Hill to be named the starting QB for the first week of the season, but the 49ers need to be keeping an open mind with Alex Smith. I just don't think he's completely toast quite yet.
Trevor Cole The Bay Area Sports Journal