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Sunday, May 17, 2009
Mailbag: 'Why is everyone so down on Hill?'

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jason writes via Facebook: Why is everyone so down on Shaun Hill as the starter? No, he is not "sexy" by any means. However, all he has done is put together a winning record for a mediocre team! Now, he has more weapons to play with, (Crabtree, Davis, Morgan, Gore, etc.). Plus, it seems that he should be a good fit for the offense that is being installed. I look at Super Bowl teams of the past like the Ravens, and they didn't have a stud QB either. To me, the 49ers are starting to look very similar. Solid D, conservative offense. In my opinion, Hill has earned the starter spot until he falters. If that happens, then bring in Smith. Thoughts?

Mike Sando: It's harder to be "up" on Shaun Hill when the organization hasn't named him its starter. I understand the situation. The 49ers wanted to re-sign Alex Smith and to do that they needed to promise Smith a chance to compete for the job. But if the organization were entirely sold on Hill, the team would have signed him to an extension and declared him the starter. Those things did not happen. It's fair for the rest of us to question what that means, even if we've seen enough from Hill to think he might succeed as the starter.

The Ravens comparison holds up only to a point, in my view. Baltimore had one of the all-time great defenses that season. The 49ers might field a top-10 defense this season, but I wouldn't consider it close to the defense Baltimore used during that Super Bowl season. The Ravens also got a strong season from Trent Dilfer. Say what you want about Dilfer's career, but he had the physical ability to become a top-10 draft choice. Hill is from a different mold.

Note: I've been traveling Sunday and just landed in Connecticut for annual meetings at ESPN headquarters Monday. The intent wasn't to double up on 49ers stuff this afternoon, but the Hall of Fame item was not expected. I'm working on a wider-reaching mailbag for Monday.