Will Alex Smith Be Looking Over His Shoulder in 2010?
With their decision to avoid a quarterback in the draft, the San Francisco 49ers made it clear that they’re relying on the ability of their current corps of signal callers for the 2010-11 campaign.
The question that immediately comes to mind, however, is who the future of the program is? Will it be Alex Smith, David Carr or even Nate Davis? The answer, at this point, is Smith.
“Alex Smith is our quarterback,” said 49ers coach Mike Singletary before the draft. It was amid speculation of a possible Jimmy Clausen draft pick that he made it clear the 49ers were going to rely on their No. 1 draft pick from 2005. No one, of course, seemed to believe him until the Niners used their first-round picks to take an offensive tackle and an offensive guard.
Suddenly the picture became much clearer.
“Anytime that you can help protect a quarterback, it gives him that much more confidence in what he’s doing,” said Singletary of the draft picks. “I think it’s going to help Alex Smith a lot. The more weapons that we can give him, the more protection that we can offer him, I think it’s going to make a big difference.”
Smith, Smith and more Smith when Singletary talks about the upcoming season.
Carr, who was the No. 1 draft pick in 2002 by the Houston Texans, may not like what he’s hearing, but he really has no other choice other than to go out and play his best when he’s called upon, just like he did behind Eli Manning in New York for the past two years. Even he admits that he’s not been told he’ll be fighting for the starting job.
“Specifically, those words haven’t been said, but they have said that competition is what they love around here,” Carr said during the press conference to announce his signing with San Francisco. “It makes you feel better. One of Singletary’s things is, ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ The thing that I wanted to hear, from all those guys, was I’ll have a chance to be on the field if I play the way I know I can play and they said yes. Once I get on the field, I feel confident that we are going to play well.”
While it’s possible the Niners are simply setting up a pre-season battle between the two quarterbacks, the odds are that they’re going to give Smith the nod. He’s seen the most snaps in spring camps and, traditionally, he doesn’t do well under the off-season competition idea.
He’s lost pre-season competitions, and the starting job, in 2005 (to Tim Rattay his rookie season), 2008 (to J.T. O’Sullivan) and last year (to Shaun Hill). Each time, Smith has come in to relieve them and take back the starting role, including last season in Week 7 and every offensive snap after for a 5-5 record, 2,350 yards and a career-high 18 touchdown passes. His 81.5 passer rating was the best of his career.
Playing at third string will likely be Davis, who will probably see limited playing time even in the pre-season games in favor of Carr.
He did spent much of the off-season so far at the San Francisco facilities watching game tape, working out and learning the playbook better.
“I’m trying to get that down so I have a chance at playing,” Davis told the Indiana-based Star-Press. “I’m definitely more comfortable with that. The biggest thing is I have to make all the throws. It definitely feels like it’s going good.”
At this point in the pre-season and looking ahead to the first snap of 2010, Smith is going to be the starting quarterback for the 49ers. The pressure is on, though Singletary said that it’s up to the team to win and not just Smith.
“It has to be a team thought process,” he said during a press conference following the 2010 draft. “I really believe Alex embraced that. I really believe that he embraces that idea of knowing that we’re not asking him to go out and win the game. But we are asking him to go out and perform to the best of his ability. And to execute to the best of his ability. If he can do that, then fine. We’re going to be OK.”