On Friday, the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Minnesota Vikings at Candlestick Park to get their preseason underway. Alex Smith and the first team offense is looking to come out and make sure they're on the same page, while the guys behind him will be trying to get first dibs at taking his job should he relinquish it.
Which is a wholly interesting proposition.
We've talked a little bit about Alex Smith and his "leash." Sure, he had a great year last year, and were it not for the fact that this league was so absolutely stacked at the quarterback position, he'd have been among the best. He didn't produce the raw numbers you generally expect, but he had an admirable plus/minus and he came through in the clutch time and time again.
But the man is only one season removed from several years of turmoil and missed expectations. His career, to this point, has been defined by mismanagement and disappointment. This coming season can see Smith lead San Francisco to the Super Bowl, and though it will earn him self satisfaction, a bonus check and some sizable bling, it will hardly earn him any fan confidence heading into the 2013 season.
That's just how bad it's been for him since being made the No. 1 overall pick in 2005. That's why the battle for the backup quarterback position is such an interesting one. To think, the 49ers made it to the NFC Championship game last year and didn't lose because of the offense, and the backup quarterback position still is this important says a lot about Smith's career thus far.
Fortunately, that's one of the most relevant things you'll find in the preseason. Quarterback battles are won in the preseason, and instead of watching for the next unknown guy to come in and hopefully save this franchise, fans can bank on an entertaining battle between Colin Kaepernick and Josh Johnson to see who is the No. 2 guy behind Smith.
Again though, that battle has significance. If Smith falters and the 49ers are clearly in a downward spiral and it's because of him, we could legitimately see one of those two guys under center during the regular season. Clearly, the 49ers would be a better team if we don't have to see any of Kaepernick or Johnson in 2012 during the regular season, but it's clearly a significant battle worth paying attention to.