QBs Smith, Young work their way back
November 7, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO – Alex Smith and Vince Young have crossed paths on several occasions at NFL functions. They’ve offered each other some encouraging words during the difficult times, like after each lost his starting job.
The once highly touted quarterbacks’ NFL fates have taken a similar bumpy road, and now they’re both back behind center, ready to square off Sunday when Young’s Tennessee Titans come to San Francisco to take on Smith and the 49ers.
“That’s how we are as quarterbacks. We stick together,” Young said. “I have much respect for Alex. I saw him a while back and he always has inspiring words for me, and I give him the same inspiring words when I see him. I know what he was going through, and I’m pretty sure he knows what I was going through. We both were being very patient and just waiting for when coach makes that move. And when we get in there, we want to make the best of it.”
Young watched last season as Kerry Collins led the Titans to a 13-3 record, then worked his way back to starting just last week when coach Jeff Fisher made the anticipated switch after Tennessee’s awful start.
For Smith, same thing. He started the year behind Shaun Hill before coach Mike Singletary made a change at halftime in Houston on Oct. 25.
Both QBs are resurrecting their careers, or at least have started the process.
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Through their ordeals and during the slow road to their comebacks, they’ve learned patience and how to stay within themselves and not do too much. There’s a different perspective that’s developed from all those weeks on the sideline.
Smith missed all of last season after reinjuring his surgically repaired throwing shoulder three days before the season opener. He was set to be the backup to J.T. O’Sullivan.
Smith would rather not compare his situation to what Young went through, though he knows it’s an interesting topic this week.
“It is really about what each of us can do to help our team win,” Smith said. “In the end that’s all that matters, especially from the quarterback position. That’s all anyone is going to remember about this. … Every situation, especially for early draft pick quarterbacks, they are all different. Every circumstance is different from the next and I don’t think that you can judge any two alike. With that, you still have ups and downs that you have in common as well.”
There are several interesting parallels between the two. Young was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, when he was drafted third overall. Smith was the No. 1 draft pick a year earlier. Smith has thrown 23 touchdowns and 33 interceptions, and Young’s line is identical. Young’s longest completion is 73 yards to Smith’s 75-yarder.
Young led the Titans (1-6) to a 30-13 rout of Jacksonville last Sunday to snap an eight-game losing streak dating back to Dec. 21 with Collins as the starter.
Smith, who hasn’t started a home game since Oct. 28, 2007, and hasn’t won at Candlestick Park since the ’07 season opener, has the task of getting the San Francisco offense back on track after two lackluster performances. The Niners (3-4) have lost three straight after a 3-1 start, falling 18-14 to the Colts in Indianapolis last week.
That game was Smith’s first start in more than two years.
“I thought Alex did very well. I was very pleased to see him make some throws,” Singletary said. “I was very excited and anticipated this game for him because I knew the rush was going to be coming at him. I knew that it was just a situation where he wasn’t going to sit back there and be comfortable and he got outside of the pocket a few times and he made some good decisions.”
Smith and the offense will have to deal with the Titans’ now-healthy secondary and constant pressure. Tennessee had four sacks against the Jaguars – and this team regained some swagger by finally winning.
“It can help a lot,” defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “That’s one of the main things we were just missing through six weeks was confidence. Guys stepped up and playmakers made plays on Sunday, and that’s the way it should be.”
The 49ers, who still consider themselves a playoff team, are determined to get things turned around immediately.
“We do need a win. We must win,” tight end Vernon Davis said.
Not that Singletary is sending that kind of message.
“It’s very frustrating to have lost the four games that we have,” he said. “When you do the math, it just comes down to winning the games that we need to win in order to win the division. That’s our first goal. I’m not going to lose my mind and say, ‘If we lose the next two, we’re done. We might as well pack it up and go home.”‘
Singletary and Fisher have their own connection. They were drafted the same year by the Chicago Bears in 1981, Singletary in the second round and Fisher in the seventh.
Titans linebackers coach Dave McGinnis worked with Hall of Famer Singletary in Chicago and he’s talked about Singletary to his linebackers. Not that it provides any advantage going against Singletary’s stingy 49ers in the Titans’ first visit to Candlestick since their 1999 Super Bowl season.
“When you’re playing somebody for the first time perhaps under new systems, you have to spend the extra time to get to know them,” Fisher said.