QB competition? There's nothing fair about it

For those who don't feel Alex Smith got a fair shot to be the 49ers' starting quarterback this year from his new offensive coordinator, Mike Martz laid down the truth of the matter Wednesday during a wide-ranging interview regarding the San Francisco offense. "Let's get this straight - there's nothing fair about this game," Martz said when pressed about Smith. "Understand that, first of all, OK."

OK, Mike, we get it.

And KGO broadcaster Mike Shumann, who played wide receiver for the 49ers for three seasons between 1978-1981, got a face full of curt response from Martz when Shumann suggested that Smith didn't get the opportunity he should have during the preseason in the competition with J.T. O'Sullivan for the starting job.

A testy interplay between Shumann and Martz began with a tame question regarding what it is about Smith that perhaps dropped him back to the second team after he began the summer as the apparent frontrunner in the QB competition.

Martz made a point to praise Smith, saying that it was more of a case of O'Sullivan winning the competition rather than Smith losing it.

"It really isn't so much about Alex as it has been J.T.'s performance – it's been so unusual," Martz said. "I think Alex is fine. He hasn't done anything to discredit himself as a starter or to say that he can't play or that we're dissatisfied with him. That has not been an issue at all."

Martz went on to talk about the day of training camp in early August when the team decided to give Smith and Shaun Hill the day off to rest their weary throwing arms.

"J.T. stepped in and did some remarkable things, and we were, ‘Well, let's take a little bit more of a look at him.' And the more we gave him, the better he did, and he just kind of took it from there. So, to say that Alex hasn't done well would not be a correct statement. Alex is fine."

But then Shumann, noting that Smith never got an opportunity to start a preseason game before the 49ers named O'Sullivan their starter, drew Martz's ire when he said, "It's almost like … because it's supposed to be a fair competition, you almost feel like Alex should've been able to play a half with the starters …"

Martz abruptly cut him off right there.

"First of all, let me tell you this - let's get this straight. There's nothing fair about this league. All right?" Martz shot back. "If you establish yourself as an incredible player within a quarter of a game, that's just the way it goes. There's nothing fair about this game. Understand that, first of all, OK?"

Shumann responded, "I played the game. I understand that."

"OK, then you know it's not (fair)," Martz continued.

Shumann retorted with, "I also know that in preseason, you can do real well, but that might not translate to the regular season."

"There's no question at all," Martz said. "But we'll find out then, won't we."

And that we will when, on Sept. 7, the 49ers trot out as their starting quarterback sixth-year veteran O'Sullivan, a guy who may know something about not getting a fair shot, since he is now playing for his eighth NFL team but will be making his first career start next month when the Cardinals come to town.


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