Niners still without a starting quarterback
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Although Mike Singletary didn’t speak as loud or as long as he often does, the coach finished up the San Francisco 49ers’ offseason workout program with one more inspiring speech in what’s certain to be a year full of them.
If only the 49ers could be so certain about what quarterback will be speaking to them in the huddle.
With his team gathered around him on the practice field Tuesday, Singletary sent his players off for the summer with thanks for the work they’ve done, and reminders of all the work they’ve still got to do.
Of course, Singletary and his staff also have their work cut out for them – and choosing a starting quarterback is still sitting atop their to-do list.
“I’ve told everybody daily that we’re behind,” Singletary said. “We’re behind the elite teams in this league, and for us, we can’t relax. We can’t blink. We’ll take this time off, but we’ve got to keep our eyes on the vision and just continue to create the balance this offseason.”
Singletary seems to be of two minds about his club, which finished up its sixth consecutive losing season last December with a 5-4 surge after he replaced Mike Nolan. The coach believes the 49ers are still trying to catch up to the NFL’s elite teams, who lead his long-struggling club in experience and togetherness, but he also predicts they can get even before the upcoming season is over.
When asked if the 49ers had the ingredients to be a playoff team, Singletary replied: “No doubt in my mind, none. I don’t even blink at that. No doubt in my mind.”
“What makes (the team) behind is having several different (offensive) coordinators in the past few years,” Singletary added. “What makes us behind is not knowing exactly who the quarterback is. What makes us a little bit behind is not knowing exactly who the No. 1 receivers are. So, yes, that puts us a little bit behind, and … you’ve got a new head coach. That puts us a little bit behind.
“There are a lot of unknowns up to this point. When the other teams, whether it be a Carolina or whether it be an Arizona or a Dallas, they’ve known for a couple, three years, ‘This is who we have. This is who we are. This is where we’re going.”‘
The 49ers just know they’re going on vacation after finishing up a seemingly hard-hitting offseason program, which resulted in a handful of injuries, including starting cornerback Walt Harris’ likely season-ending knee injury. San Francisco is installing its seventh offense in seven seasons, and the club also is working in a handful of new players on a defense that appears to be the 49ers’ strength.
Singletary said the 49ers’ coaching upheaval in recent years is perhaps their biggest disadvantage. Yet San Francisco also hasn’t chosen a starting quarterback, and the coach doesn’t expect to make his selection until several weeks into training camp.
After nearly three months of offseason training, Alex Smith and Shaun Hill apparently didn’t do much to alter Singletary’s perceptions about both passers – and that’s a good thing, particularly for Hill. On Tuesday, Singletary said neither quarterback was ahead in the competition, yet he also repeated his belief that Smith would have to win the job from Hill, who’s 7-3 as a starter over the past two seasons.
“There really is no insecurity,” said Hill, a groomsman in Smith’s wedding a few months ago. “I’m definitely used to that. Every single level I’ve been on, that’s the way it’s been. I’m kind of used to that, I guess.”
Singletary’s wait-and-see attitude is shared by Jimmy Raye, the 49ers’ new 63-year-old offensive coordinator, who runs practices wearing a floppy sunhat and two contraptions resembling small snowshoes strapped to his feet to soothe the stress of constant standing on his surgically repaired back.
Raye appears to have the respect and attention of all four quarterbacks, including veteran Damon Huard and rookie Nate Davis. Raye had praise for both Smith and Hill in recent weeks, but he also hasn’t picked a favorite.
“There has been improvement by both guys,” Raye said. “As we go forward, once we start playing real football, we’ll have a better gauge. When we take that from the shorts and the T-shirts into the pads, we’ll have a better opportunity to evaluate what is best for us.”