49ers Blog and Q&A

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

June 22, 2009
QBs take their battle off the field

The 49ers are taking the next month off. The team's quarterback battle, however, never rests. The two main combatants are engaged in their version of the Summer Games, a series of competitions that began earlier this month with a skeet-shooting duel in Morgan Hill. Shaun Hill, a country boy, took that event. Next up is bass fishing, which also favors Hill. After all, it's happening on his home water. Alex Smith and his wife plan to fly to Hill's Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. home later this week and spend a few days at Hill's pad. Do these guys hate each other or what?

Smith, who grew up outside of San Diego, openly admits that Hill has the advantage in the more outdoorsy pursuits. However, No. 11 feels he'll have Hill's number in several indoor sports - such as bowling - and he's certain he's the better golfer. Hill, a former high school basketball start, is confident he'll handle Smith on the hard wood. Meanwhile, Mike Singletary is praying his top two quarterbacks don't take the brother-vs.-brother competition too far ...

The gold medal, of course, will be awarded at the end of August to the player who wins the starting quarterback competition. Singletary recently clarified (sarcasm alert) the situation when he said both quarterbacks were on equal footing but that Smith would have to overtake Hill to win the starting job. It sure seems as if Hill has the inside track, and the smart money would be on him being the team's Day 1 starter.

But in his short tenure, Singletary has not been shy about giving his starting quarterback the hook. Singletary did just that with J.T. O'Sullivan before his first game as interim head coach was even half over. He also momentarily pulled Hill for O'Sullivan in a Week 16 game in St. Louis before looking into Hill's eyes and keeping him in the game. In other words, there's an excellent chance we'll be seeing both men under center this season. And the better Smith looks this summer, the itchier Singletary's trigger finger becomes.

Let the games begin...

I grew up in Virginia and spent two years in South Carolina. And yet I had to travel to NorCal's wine country to see my first NASCAR event. It's a lot like hockey in that it's a far different and far better experience live than it is on TV. ... But if you attend next year's event, make sure you hit the little boys room BEFORE getting in your car. Nearly 100,000 people on one-lane rural roads make for a slow trip home, which is doubly frustrating after watching guys zip around at 100-plus mph. It took me two hours to get back to San Jose, and I left four hours after the race ended. I shudder to think of the ride back to Sac. Any horror stories out there? ... Before the race, reporters were asked to predict the order of finish. Using a dart board and blindfold, I wrote down: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 2. Kurt Busch and 3. Jeff Gordon. Actual order: 4. Jimmie Johnson, 15. Kurt Busch 9. Gordon. While that's certainly not spot-on, it still allows me to keep "Matt Barrows, prophet" on my business cards ...

-- Matt Barrows, prophet


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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