What Smith must show to win starting QB job

A couple days ago Reader Danny had a question about the 49ers’ quarterback competition.

“It always seems like Hill doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” he wrote. “I am happy to have him at QB, however, in my heart of hearts, I am rooting for Smith, I feel like we were on to something in 2007. But with everything that Shaun Hill has done, what does Alex Smith have to do in your opinion to win the Job? Is it as simple as looking better in practice? Or in a preseason game? Seems like a steep hill for Smith.”

 

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Alex Smith took snaps in the morning with the first-team offense. In the recently completed afternoon practice (3:50 p.m. to 5:30), Hill was back running with the first team.

 

Smith is throwing the ball pretty well. He completed a higher percentage of his passes than Hill, who experienced difficulty throwing the ball against the wind.

 

Hill hates to hear it, of course, but he is not the kind of quarterback who is going to be impressive in practice. There are times that he really struggles in those settings. Smith, meanwhile, is more apt to pass the “eyeball test” in practice with his stronger arm.

 

But Hill excels in other areas. He is clearly a leader. He has the intangibles. He has a quiet confidence off the field. On the field, he has an edge to him. He is not afraid to tell the coach that he’d be making a mistake if he were to bench him in the middle of a game, which was the case in the 49ers’ late-season win at St. Louis.

 

Several weeks ago, coach Mike Singletary said he would start the quarterback who makes magic happen in the huddle. That area is Hill’s specialty.

 

Singletary already knows about that. He has seen Hill in action. In fact, one of the big reasons Singletary was named 49ers coach was because of Hill’s strong play over the final half of the season. Meanwhile, Smith has not played since the middle of the 2007 season. Clearly, Hill has that advantage.

 

So what does Smith have to do to win the job? He not only has to outplay Hill in practice, he has to outplay him by a considerable margin. And, even then, it might not be enough for Singletary to go with him over Hill.

 

Smith has to prove to Singletary that Hill is not the only quarterback on the team with those same hard-to-define qualities.

 

A year ago, then-O.C. Mike Martz wanted Smith to adopt a different mindset. Sorry, but I can’t use the exact phrase that Martz kept repeating to Smith, but it was along the lines of, “The heck with it.” He wanted Smith to forget about trying to please everybody.

 

There was a play in practice today when Hill was trying to get a pass to Vernon Davis. Defensive back Allen Rossum made the interception, and Davis did not do much to prevent it. Don’t know if Hill was upset that Davis did not break up the pass or whether he ran the wrong route. But Hill went straight to Davis at the conclusion of the play. The two seemed to have a brief, heated exchange.

 

That is probably the kind of thing Singletary will be looking to see from Smith. When Smith is in the huddle, Singletary will want to see him take charge.

 

He wants to see that magic.

 

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Defensive back Reggie Smith left the afternoon practice with a groin strain. Receiver Jason Hill experienced soreness in his left hamstring in the morning and did not practice in the afternoon. Both will be evaluated Sunday.

 

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Add linebacker Mark Washington to previous list of those 49ers with Twitter accounts.

 

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