When Joe Montana and Steve Young competed for the heart of Bill Walsh in the late 1980’s, they didn’t just polarize an entire region. They also hated each other.
Young always said the right things publicly, belying his carefully crafted media persona and lawyer’s mentality. Montana’s distaste for Young was less than subtle, a feeling that was picked up by Montana backers and led to Young never fully being trusted by many until he finally got past the Dallas Cowboys and won a Super Bowl.
Contrast that with the current quarterback competition going on in Santa Clara, where Shaun Hill and Alex Smith are reportedly BFF’s. They study film together, they eat together, they even swap wives.
This is all well and good, but I’m not exactly worried about who to root for here. Great, they’re both good guys, but do either of them have the combination of talent and competitive desire necessary to be an upper-echelon quarterback? Football’s based on fighting, not just with your opponent for every inch possible (thank you, Al Pacino), but even with your teammates during training camp. Hell, Vernon Davis and Marques Harris came to blows yesterday, and the only thing that led to was the team running gassers after practice.
Like when many were wary of letting Young take the reins of the 49ers simply because he wasn’t Montana, we’re all currently wary of Hill and Smith because they aren’t even Jeff Garcia. Hill has a winning record for the 49ers and can complete more than two passes in a row, but it remains to be seen what he’s capable of when his team isn’t already eliminated from playoff contention. Smith is doing a bang-up job collecting excuses and paychecks, but I’m having a tough time recalling a great quarterback who was a nice guy both on and off the field who barely could tread water over his first four seasons.
Great quarterbacks are cocky, magnetic and resourceful. Of those three qualities, only Hill has even one of them (resourcefulness, as he can definitely improvise in the pocket).
Two guys walking arm-in-arm around the facility, playbooks in hand, seems like the recipe for a .500 team (or worse, a seventh straight losing season). We can’t expect Hill or Smith to have the talent and athletic ability of Montana or Young. However, it’s not out of bounds to hope they’d want the job just as badly. Maybe they do, but at this point it’s hard to tell.
49ers Quick Hits
— Speaking of Montana, Bill Simmons found this gem of an advertisement at the Collector’s Convention. I had no idea Joe met Jennifer during a shoot for Schick Disposable Razors, or that said shoot led to Joe divorcing his first wife and getting with Jennifer. Of course, who could resist a woman in a giant black cowboy hat? Joe’s looking quite dapper in his vest, too. (ESPN)
— Free agent wide receiver Brandon Jones (whoÂ reportedly has been tearing it up in training camp so far) is out eight weeks with a shoulder fracture. (Matt Maiocco)
— Looks like all that hatred of Michael Crabtree is finally coming in handy for Kevin Lynch. Lynch is definitely working hard, though, with some great camp updates and highlights. Cool stuff about Dominique Zeigler, who absolutely has to make this team. (Niner Insider)
— Don’t forget Josh Morgan, who looks to be the 49ers’ best receiver regardless of whether Crabtree signs or Jones’ shoulder heals. (NFL.com)
— A “pissy” Mike Florio reasserts that it wasn’t just cousin David who was making threats yesterday on Crabtree’s behalf. According to three sources, Eugene Parker (Crabby’s agent) made the same threat of Crabtree possibly sitting out the 2009 season. (Pro Football Talk)
— Here’s the transcript of both Hill’s and Smith’s interviews from yesterday. Most interesting quote came from Smith, on not focusing enough on fundamentals early in his career: “I would agree with that in the sense that, and I hate saying this because itâ€™s not an excuse, but when you have some of that turnover on offense, the priority turns to learning that playbook as opposed to fundamentals, and that falls on me as well. I think at points in my past, yes Iâ€™ve really strayed away from that. Iâ€™ve focused on the playbook more than my fundamentals.” (49ers Hot Read)
— EA Sports did their season simulation for 2009, using Madden NFL 10. Not surprisingly the 49ers and Raiders missed the playoffs, with the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl and Tom Brady taking MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. The good news: Patrick Willis won Defensive Player of the Year. (EA Press)