Liotta: Smith a 'shoe-in' for biggest bust

J.T. O’Sullivan?

Does the 49ers’ decision Friday to name O’Sullivan their starting quarterback officially label Alex Smith a bust?

Think about it. The possibility actually came into the picture months ago — around the time the Niners’ coaching staff declared the 49ers’ starting quarterback job open for competition. The first overall pick of the 2005 draft, the guy taken before every other trophy-winning college football player that year, against two guys who — by NFL standards — each could justifiably be called a nobody.

For Smith to have given Shaun Hill and J.T. O’Sullivan the opportunity to call family members to tell them to watch the next 49ers exhibition game had to tell you something.

It took Hill until the 13th week of his sixth NFL season before a coach would allow him to throw a pass that counted. Before he came to the 49ers, the only thing any coach trusted him to do was take a knee. Not much of a résumé.

But Hill played pretty well last year. Won a couple of games. And made Niners fans believe he genuinely deserved an outside shot at the job. But nobody really thought he would outplay a former No. 1 pick. Nobody.

Then, along comes this guy named O’Sullivan, who comes from a no-nothing college, who it took five seasons before he was allowed to trot onto the field with an offensive unit when the clock on an NFL scoreboard was ticking.

So it was Smith vs. two guys who’ve needed 11 years of studying playbooks, practicing as hard as they can, to get the opportunity to throw a grand total of 105 passes that count in the NFL’s record book. The No. 1 overall pick in any year this side of 1916 would have gotten the nod.

On paper, competition never made sense. It felt like Carl Lewis running against a bunch of guys from the neighborhood and finding himself in a photo finish. Like Tiger Woods facing a couple of local club champions and finding himself tied coming to the 18th tee.
And for Smith to have lost out …

Plenty has been said about Ryan Leaf being the NFL’s all-time quarterback bust, but, to me, Smith has put himself on even terms with Leaf for that honor. Let’s face it; he competed with a pair of guys who could just as easily have been selling shoes at Nordstrom’s as lasting this long in the NFL — and he lost.

Random thoughts:

— Michael Phelps will forever own this Olympics with his eight gold medals. However, Usain Bolt pulling away from the fastest men on the planet just past the halfway point of the 100 and 200 meters gets my vote as the most awesome spectacle of these Games.

— I still haven’t bought beach volleyball as an Olympic sport. I’m thinking it got in as part of deal that pushed team handball into the Games.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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