49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

August 24, 2008
Q&A: Nice guys -- like Alex Smith -- finish second

Before we get to the questions, it's time for international hour. Today we have questions from Greg in Beijing and from Anders in Denmark, who informs me that Finland isn't really considered part of Scandinavia. Who knew? Also Bob, a Chico native, is working in the city formerly known as Saigon and asks whether Vietnam is a more obscure country for a 49ers question than Finland. I still say it's Finland because it seems more unfamiliar to Americans. I mean, some people even think it's part of Scandinavia.

Question: First off, Matt, Congrats on the "Best Question"! I knew you had it in you! Secondly, in regards to the QB competition, has Alex shown any personal changes over the past few weeks in his attitude and aggressiveness both on and off the field? It seems to me, he is still very young in terms of development, and could probably use this time on the sidelines to learn the system better and regain some confidence. Is there still hope for him to be a good/great QB for the Niners? He is only 24, for cryin' out loud!
John, Tucson

Answer: I made this analogy yesterday: Alex Smith is like the Democratic party. You think they're right, you root for them, but they frustrate the hell out of you by being too mild mannered ... Will this episode harden Smith and make him a better QB in the long run? It should, but I also thought last year's shouldergate would have done the same thing. The irony in all this is that Smith could learn a valuable lesson from J.T. O'Sullivan as far as grit, determination and being a jerk (I want to use another four-letter word that ends in "k") when the time calls for it.
- Matt

Question: I just heard Trent Dilfer on ESPN say Alex Smith would be the starter for the niners at some point in this season. Could the niners have a plan to let JTO start till Alex gets 'up to speed'?
DennyPat, West Sac

Answer: That scenario could very well happen due to injury or poor play, but I don't think it's the plan. Mike Martz isn't one to give QBs a quick hook and he seems enamored of O'Sullivan.
- Matt

Question: Hey matt, love the blog. i was just wandering since j.t. osullivan is winning the qb race is there any chance that we could trade alex smith or shaun hill?
Sam, McAlester, OK

Answer: The only scenario I see - and even this one is wafer thin - is if Philip Rivers goes down in San Diego and Norv Turner grows desperate. The bottom line is that Smith's salary is way too huge for any team to pick him up now when they know he'll be released after the season. Don't see anyone wanting to trade for the 49ers' No. 3 QB, either.
- Matt

Question: Matt, One thing we haven't heard much about is the effects of Smith's shoulder injury on his accuracy and/or long ball. Any thoughts?
Stephen, Portland Or

Answer: That question has been put to Smith a number of times. He's said that there are some minor things he's still working out but overall the shoulder is fine.
- Matt

Question: Matt, I have two questions. 1.How do the York's feel about Alex's situation? 2.If the 49ers' offense is successful and Martz becomes an in demand head coaching candidate, would the York's and/or McClougan risk losing him and subsequently need yet another offensive coordinator, or would they fire Nolan and hire Martz as head coach, even if the 49er's have a "successful" season? Thank you for the blog, Ron, Sacramento

Answer: I'm sure the Yorks aren't happy about paying a truck-load of money to a player who will start the season on the bench and who likely will be gone next season. To their credit, however, they've stayed out of the decision-making process. ... Your second question is a good one. Given this team's recent history with offensive coordinators, there simply HAS to be a plan to maintain offensive continuity after the season. That is, if the offense is indeed as good as it has hinted in the preseason.
- Matt

Question: We all see Alex Smith holding the ball too long in games, but from you're 'up close and personal' view, does he EVER throw it timely in practices? Or in 'do-overs'?? Or ever, period!!? This ingrained hesitancy of Smith to let'er rip makes me absolutely crazy, is it wearing thin yet with Martz also?
And where, pray tell, is all this monumental intelligence he's purported to have? So far he hasn't shown that he's bright enough to note and correct his most obvious weakness.
Sammy, Sacramento

Answer: Yes, Smith often was slow to throw and threw behind his receivers in practice, and, yes, I believe that's what sunk him in the quarterback competition. But that doesn't mean he's not smart and it doesn't mean he wouldn't ultimately have "caught up" to the offense and become very good in it. Smith's mastery of Urban Meyer's system at Utah is a case in point.
- Matt

Question: What has happened to Keith Lewis? He was awful against the Bears...missing tackles and responsible for a blocked punt by Brandon Lloyd, of all people. When he first came to the 49ers I thought he was going to be a dynamite special team player and potentially a starting safety. Now, I don't see him making the team.
James, Lincoln

Answer: I fear the worst, too. He's going to need a monster game against San Diego to save his job.
- Matt

Question: In Martz's system, the slot receiver catches a lot of balls. Who is in the lead for that position right now? Morgan?
Chris, Clovis, NM

Answer: No, Morgan plays a different position. Arnaz Battle is in the lead right now.
- Matt

Question: How is Walt Harris looking out there? I a few games last year he seemed to have lost a step and he isn't a young man anymore. And how is Spencer looking? He usually gets hurt a lot, but no injuries this year yet?
Anders, Copenhagen, Denmark

Answer: Harris has looked very sharp. The 49ers are careful not to wear him down in the offseason and he seems to have responded to the so-called "old man's practices" by looking spry during games. Spencer has been the third-best cornerback. He's looked good, too.
- Matt

Question: Is jonas jennings the softest offensive lineman you have ever seen? the guy is always hurt. now he is not going to play because of a knuckle? are you kidding me? put on a soft cast and strap it up. he is making way too much money not to play because of a knuckle.
Tyler, Sacramento

Answer: I think the wolves will start circling Jennings if the injury causes him to miss any time in the regular season. He's been the best offensive lineman so far in the preseason and really doesn't need to play.
- Matt

Question: I live in China where we don't get preseason games on TV, just like in Oakland. Can you please tell me what's been happening with the 49ers for the last two weeks? Who's going to be the starting quarterback? And how do you think Brandon Moore will play this year? Oh, and do you think Coach Nolan is going to be fired after the season? Thanks for the help, or as we say in Beijing, xie xie!
Greg, Beijing

Answer: Wow, I hope you're sitting down for this, Greg. The starting quarterback is J.T. O'Sullivan and Brandon Moore now plays for the Cardinals. This probably seems like one of those "Twilight Zone" episodes where the guy wakes up one morning and everything around him is different. Please don't go all "Bourne Identity" on me. Also, there's this device called "The Internet" that can keep you up to date on your Niners. The Chinese government isn't blocking out "49ers Blog and Q&A" is it?!?!?!
- Matt


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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