Picking sides: Smith or Hill

Picking sides: Smith or Hill

Alex Smith and Shaun Hill are good friends – very good friends. And on a personal level, it does not seem to matter that they both want what only one man will get. They remain allies despite their very public 49ers quarterback competition.

So if Smith and Hill are such good buddies, why is there such vitriol among their fans?

To the Hill supporters who flood the comments section with anti-Smith sentiment: What has Alex done in the past two years to alienate you? He finished 2006 on an uptick. He was a 22-year-old who showed remarkable progress in his second NFL season with an inferior supporting cast. Since that time, he’s played three healthy games. (He’s finally healthy again.)


And to the Smith backers who are searching for reasons to lambaste Hill: What has this guy done wrong when given an opportunity to play? He is the classic overachiever with underrated physical skills. All that matters is that when he’s been on the field, the 49ers have won 70-percent of the time.

I’ve written in the past several days that Hill has seemingly taken the lead in the quarterback competition. It’s an observation that has been supported by team sources with whom I’ve spoken. But the door has not slammed on Smith.

If Smith plays well tonight against the Raiders, he might extend the competition to the wire. If Hill clearly outplays him, it is possible coach Mike Singletary will make a decision sooner than later.

In any event, whichever quarterback does not win the starting job for the Sept. 13 regular-season opener, must remain ready. In all likelihood, they will both be needed to produce at some point in the season.

These two guys are also very good for the image of the 49ers during a time when conduct and greed are issues around the NFL. There have been a handful of national reporters this summer who have spoken to both Smith and Hill, and then reported back to me about how great they were.

My standard sarcastic response is, “Yep, they’re real divas, aren’t they?”

People who’ve come in contact with Smith and Hill agree that they would like to see both of them succeed. It’s too bad more fans don’t have the same mindset.

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