First, and most importantly, coach Mike Singletary will plug in Shaun Hill as the team’s starter for the San Francisco 49ers’ first preseason game. It’s an indication, in my mind, that the starting spot is his to lose.
Now, on to the ex-convicts and extra marital affairs.
In unprecedented, but most welcomed, news, Roger Goodell announced a season-long suspension for Donte’ Stallworth.
He had it coming.
I can’t help but think this is karma at work for a guy who literally killed a man while driving drunk and spent 23 days of repentance in soft-core jail. I wrote about the backwards way the justice system was working on this case in June. It was atrocious to mete out a 30-day sentence, however long the probation period.
If you’re scoffing at this, you’re either rich or ignorant.
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I’d hate to have the 49ers go this route for two reasons:
- When Smith was the starter, and healthy, he went 7-9 in the 2006 season while leading the 49ers on two phenomenal comebacks. Unfortunately, these two golden nuggets were not a sign of promise. It’s a sign of his limit. What we’ve come to know of Smith is that he’s fragile. (how did he injure that shoulder again last season? Oh, that’s right, by throwing the ball in practice. The primary function of his job!) He’s also sensitive and he wilts under pressure. Taking slices of Smith’s career and then evaluating him as a whole is faulty logic, and an apologist’s summation for a loser.
- Locker room leadership may take a hit if Hill can’t surpass Smith. I remember vividly the divide on our team in high school when we were trying to determine who would be our quarterback. Of course, it was always up to the coaches but everyone had their sides. And when a decision was made, some folks were disgruntled. If you think that can’t or won’t happen on a professional team, you’re whacko. Last thing Mike Singletary needs on his team is a loser. Guess who fits that description best of the two.
Look, I don’t want to go back down the path of trying something old (relatively speaking), tested and not battle ready. That’s exactly what Smith is. We’ve tried him, it didn’t work, it’s time to move on. Full-time duties should be put on Shaun Hill until he screws that up royally. And if it comes to that, the 49ers need to make moves for a veteran free agent. I mean, Trent Green is available. It can’t get worse than that. Can it?
When Alex Smith restructured his contract Tuesday, there was a loud poofing noise that occurred at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara.
It wasn’t the normal poof that occurs when you lose an idea, a dream or some really cool visual. On Tuesday, the poof in Santa Clara was the vanishing sense of a huge financial obligation once bestowed upon the 2005 No. 1 draft pick.
In many ways, the poof was the relief the 49ers had always desired from an overpaid bust. Smith was due nearly $10 million this year. That’s just unacceptable for a likely benchwarmer. But it was also the beginning of a very tough conversation the red and gold will have to have: What next? And even more precisely, who is next?
The recent addition of Damon Huard (50-of-81 for 477 yards passing in five games in 2008) doesn’t make this 49ers fan feel like the quarterback issue is solved. Nor does the idea of a new quarterback competition, a la 2008, in which Shaun Hill (7-3 as a 49ers starter) is challenged by Smith, of all people, make me feel as if something is being accomplished. It all looks like musical chairs.
The one thing general manager Scot McCloughan should think about going forward, with Mike Singletary at his side, is what will his long-term quarterback plan look like. Not just the every-year shuffle of “who is the next fix,” but who can be drafted, secured and/or stolen that management and players alike will want to build around.
Who, I say? Who?
The fruition of the 49ers’ plans will not begin to take shape until we have seen the first draft by McCloughan and Singletary. If memory serves me correctly, the last draft was non-sensical and totally devoid of the 49ers’ most prominent needs, a quarterback or receiver in the first round. That means first-round caliber. That means talented.
Maybe one will fix the other. Maybe the 49ers are banking on their latest wideout addition, Brandon Jones, to fill some invisible gap.
Maybe they don’t have a plan.
The obvious observation is that the plan was nonexistent up until negotiations began with Smith. The fact that he’s bought into this now yearly charade of competition is absurd. He needs to find the bottom of the depth chart and quietly disappear.
To note that there is quarterback competition reveals how flawed the plan is in its infancy. But again, this all can go down the toilet with one stellar pick at the No. 10 spot April 25. (Mark Sanchez more than likely will be available. Just do it. Just. Do. It.)
More than anything else, they need to find the one guy everybody will love and groom him like he’s the prince getting ready for the throne. Let Hill be the caretaker of the quarterback duties until he’s ready and let Smith date the clipboard. But no matter what the 49ers do, they have to formulate a winning plan and stick with it.
The last thing Singletary needs is to define his reign by Hill or some other toss away quarterback.
This column originally appeared in The Union.
Let’s be principled about this. If we’re going to go into the new year, we’re going to have to be goal oriented and, better yet, results oriented.
Mike Singletary has been anointed. Shaun Hill has shown, two weeks in a row, that he can be the savior’s solution to the quarterback puzzle. And Mike Martz, canned after one season amid marginal improvement in the team’s total offense (23rd in the league after ranking dead last in 2007), is out the door. There’s no looking back now. This is Singletary’s team.
And with the 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft, in addition to selecting a new offensive coordinator, Singletary will solidify his mold on this red and gold creature. What will take shape, only he can dream up.
What seems to be the unanimous opinion of pundits and fans alike, myself included, is that the will of Singletary will be so strong, he will make winners of those around him despite whatever talent they have. I expect any great leader, like Singletary, to do so. But I want to stop and implore him to think about the end game for the 49ers and what’s really necessary to be successful in the long run, as well as the short one.
Let’s not pretend SF is still rebuilding. That’s such a tired excuse for a franchise with so many weapons on offense and outstanding talents on defense. The pieces are in place. From the stacked linebacker corps, secondary and even wide receiver group, there’s only so many places SF needs an upgrade — and in some cases, solidification.
Namely, the offensive line needs bodies. Rookie Chilo Rachal stepped in and did some good work for the 49ers late. But it’s telling that a rookie can step in and make an impact when veterans have been at the forefront. Same goes to Bryant Johnson, who’s hefty price tag was repaid with a surplus of injury days.
But again, this is about direction. Any pick, 10th or 42nd, will have to build upon Singletary’s pre-ordained philosophy and come to formation on the structure that Mike Nolan put in place. I don’t want to win in 2010. I want to win in 2009.
The only logical move for a big name piece is either an offensive lineman or a dynamic player on the board that can have instant impact. Too many lineman have gotten hurt, hence Rachal’s second round selection last year, and too many have underperformed. Solid line play will lead to a solid running game, which Singletary favors, and a ball control offense which the 49ers desperately need.
The defense will have to take care of itself, all while the quarterback situation is figuring itself out.
In 2009, execution will be the prominent theme. And wins will be highlighted more so, thanks to all the wonderful tools already in the shed. If Scot McCloughan is writing down any resolutions, he should try this: Have a plus .500 season. Because everyone knows plus .500 means you’ve won the NFC West.
Next step: Playoffs.
This column originally appeared in The Union (Grass Valley, Calif.).
You’re just going to have to get used to Mike Singletary barking at you on that TV screen because he’s not going anywhere, anytime soon.
After the 49ers dropped the New York Jets, one week after downing the Buffalo Bills, there’s a distinct flavor of football being formed in the San Francisco Peninsula. It’s an unmistakable change from the random week-to-week strategy that was offensive oriented, unorganized and worse yet, a losing culture.
Now, with Singletary playing captain, Shaun Hill starring as first mate and Vernon Davis being a good sailor, there’s a lot of positives to take from a tragic 2008 season.
Like pheromones, the Yorks will unknowingly, or rather ignorantly, enjoy the plunders of these non-essential, late-season wins. They’ll look at the few wins they pick up and see justification for sacking Mike Nolan, justification for benching J.T. O’Sullivan, and justification for not going after another quarterback last offseason, and probably this upcoming one.
Singletary deserves the credit for bringing discipline. He’s a pretty stern dude who has reinvigorated a defense that was not playing up to par. Holding Buffalo to three points showed that and holding the Jets (who had just beat the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans) to 14 proved that. It’s very satisfying to see the defense play so well when they’re supposed to, all the while understanding that you can’t expect that performance every week.
UPDATED: So the 49ers took a loss to the Dolphins this last weekend and I couldn’t help but stew about that. It wasn’t like there was something magnificent about what the Dolphins did, it was more about how magnificently anemic the 49ers offense was. They just couldn’t get the plays when they needed ‘em. I don’t think all of the blame should be on the quarterback in this scenario. There’s a lot of fault laying around that offensive line and the lack of running plays called.
The question is, if the 49ers are going to lose to the Dolphins, when they can clearly win the game, will they lose to the Bengals if they played today? I mean, this is the low of the low. Can they even beat the Raiders.