An estimated 1,200 season-ticket holders slogged their way through the elements to the 1,605-seat San Mateo Performing Arts Center last night for the 49ers’ state-of-the-franchise event.
The morning after, here are some of the things that stick in my mind:
–Coach Mike Singletary seems quite content with an Alex Smith vs. Shaun Hill quarterback competition. The only difference from a year ago is that J.T. O’Sullivan will not be around to emerge as the winner (after benefitting from a nice head start of already knowing Mike Martz’s offense) and open the season as the starter.
–Assuming Smith returns with a reduced contract, there will be a competition pitting Hill (7-3 record as a starter) vs. Smith (11-19). Niners fans have been very supportive of Smith, but – at the moment — Hill seems to be the more popular of the two. When Hill’s name was mentioned last night, the crowd broke into applause.
If Smith’s shoulder remains healthy, he seems to have the advantage in a competition because he passes the “eyeball test” with his arm strength. Hill’s strengths, such as leadership and moxie, do not necessarily translate to the practice field. Asked to address that issue, Singletary said, “There are intangibles that we will see going into it.”
–When I asked if the QBs would split reps during the spring and training camp, Singletary said, “I’m not sure how we’re going to go about doing it. But it’s not going to be a long, drawn-out process. We’re just going to let them compete for that job. If Alex is back, they’re going to compete for that job.”
–We shouldn’t read much into this, but somebody in the organization made the conscious decision to have Hill’s No. 13 uniform as a stage prop. Smith’s jersey was not up there. Smith was the centerpiece of the team’s marketing for the first three seasons after he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2005. Smith is still under contract to the team, but everybody knows he will not return in 2009 under his current deal.
–The 49ers answered few direct questions last night. Heck, Singletary and team president Jed York even kept the door open for the potential of the club acquiring imprisoned quarterback Michael Vick. The issue was not addressed on stage, but afterward a couple media members pelted Singletary and York with questions about Vick. Why weren’t the 49ers more definitive? Were they just floating a trial balloon to see what kind of feedback they’d get from the fan base?
–GM Scot McCloughan left the theater immediately after the event and did not stick around to answer reporters’ questions. Apparently, he was scheduled to resume draft meetings early this morning before leaving for the combine in
–McCloughan mentioned offensive tackle, safety, receiver and quarterback as positions of need.
–Afterward, Singletary told the media that the club will also look to improve its pass rush. He said: “We’re looking for some guys to make us better. We’re still developing some guys. (We) still have Manny Lawson, who you think can be a pass rusher, or at least effective. (We) got a guy last year in the first round, Kentwan (Balmer). I saw some things with him toward the end of the season that I thought were very positive. I’m excited going forward. But we definitely have to have something there to help solidify that unit, where we can have a consistent pass rush. That’s something we do have to address and we will.”
–Singletary did not dispel the notion the 49ers would be a running team. In fact, he really played up the 49ers as being a team that plays “physical with an ‘F.’” He said part of the role of the offense will be to play defense – and keep the opponent off the field with a pounding running attack. McCloughan described Jimmy Raye’s offensive approach as “simple.”
–McCloughan said the 49ers would have the sixth- or seventh-most cap space in the league at the beginning of free agency. He said the club expects to sign four to six free agents.
–Either team chief operating officer Andy Dolich is a big tease or the 49ers are going to have new uniforms this season.
Here’s the rule that the NFL has repeatedly cited about uniform changes: “A club must give written notice and details thereof to the League by March 1 of the year prior to the year in which it wishes to change and must submit the final design and physical samples of the uniforms to the League office for approval by November 1 of that same year.”
The information from the 49ers all along has been that they did not put together the necessary paperwork last year, so the earliest they could change uniforms would be 2010. However, the 49ers might also want to make an announcement with the element of surprise. It’s entirely possible we’ve been duped.
(I hope to have some clarification from the 49ers a little later today.)
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I’ll be in and out for the remainder of the day, but I will try to answer any relevant questions about last night’s event.
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