UPDATE:Head coach Mike Singletary said at his noon press conference that it was still under discussion, but news came out later this afternoon that Shaun Hill will in fact start when the 49ers square off against the Arizona Cardinals two weeks from today.
"Coach Martz and I looked at the film. We talked about it a bit last night, we got together this morning and after looking at the film, really felt like Shaun Hill would be the best quarterback going forward," said Singletary. "We know exactly what Shaun Hill is. He's very consistent, very professional and very steady. We just felt like right now, JT and all the turnovers and things like that, and not all of the turnovers were his fault, but just giving him a chance to settle in and get refocused on the techniques and all the other things he needs to do and who knows, before it's all said and done, you never know. We'll see."
"Shaun brings a steadiness about him. He does a good job. The confidence, the leadership, there are number of things to really like about Shaun. I'm excited that he's going to be the starter and I know he's excited. JT, it's just one of those things, where we'll give him time to refocus and we'll see where we go."
Hill is 2-0 as a starter, leading San Francisco to December victories over Cincinnati and Tampa Bay last season.
"It's great to have the support of the head coach and the rest of the staff," said Hill. "I know to a man on that team nobody wants to let him down. We are all in this thing together and trying to get it turned around."
Hill, a seven-year veteran, re-signed with the 49ers with the expectations of competing with quarterback Alex Smith for the starting job. A week into camp, the 49ers coaching staff began giving more reps to JT O'Sullivan, as well as all four starts in the preseason. By the end of the preseason, Hill was back on the depth chart as the third-string quarterback.
"In my career I haven't played much so there's been a whole lot of waiting and not a lot of playing," said Hill. "Obviously I'm very excited about it and it will be nice to have these two weeks to develop a rapport with guys and get some timing down."
EARLIER TODAY - The starting quarterback situation will remain a bit of a mystery for the time being as head coach Mike Singletary looks to get it exactly right for the remaining eight games of the season.
A week ago, his predecessor in Mike Nolan quickly announced on Monday that JT O'Sullivan gave the 49ers the best chance to win, despite his propensity for turnovers. Later in the week offensive coordinator Mike Martz supported that theory, claiming that O'Sullivan is on his way to being an outstanding quarterback.
While Singletary supported Martz in his assessment, the 49ers head coach doesn't necessarily know if that makes O'Sullivan the right fit for right now.
"When you look at what JT has and the capabilities and the arm strength and all of those things, you say, 'hey, maybe that guy gives us the best chance to win.' But, you look around the league, there are guys who are very, very talented. They can throw the right ball. They can throw every pass. They can throw every route. They are very talented, they are very smart, but they can't play quarterback," said Singletary. "JT has done a good job. He's just been inconsistent. Mike
Martz's assessment was correct, but sometimes you go back, and you look at where is the team, where is my quarterback situation, and we have to make the best decision to make the right fit. That's what we are talking about."
Singletary spent Monday morning watching film with Martz, pointing out things about the play of O'Sullivan and up to now, backup quarterback Shaun Hill. He vowed that a unanimous decision would be reached in terms of which player can best manage the game.
"I don't mean going and throwing 2-yard outs, running the ball, and then another 2-yard out. I don't mean that. I mean that quarterback has to be able to fit where we are right now, given what our defense can do, given what our special teams can do," said Singletary. "Looking at using all of the tools on that offense, what can we do? As a quarterback, he has to be able to figure it out, and make the most of all the tools that he has available to him."
O'Sullivan is second in the NFL with 30 passes of 20 yards or more, numbers that are indicative of his strong arm and accuracy, but his mistakes in his first eight starts have been extremely costly. He's fumbled eleven times and thrown eleven interceptions, including two picks that resulted in returns for touchdowns. He's also thrown three interceptions in the red zone.
Although Hill isn't flashy and doesn't have a cannon for an arm, he's consistently been able to move the ball both in relief duty and in his two starts in 2007. The 49ers won both of the games he started, as the former third-stringer tossed five touchdowns in comparison to one interception.
For now, the situation remains unresolved, but Singletary did offer more insight on what a true game manager looks like, and Hill might just best fit that bill.
"Joe Montana - I remember watching Joe many times, looking at him when we were in the Pro Bowl together and thinking I can't believe this is the guy who is beating us. I mean, he's a small guy. You look at him and say, 'How can this guy beat us?' But he was wearing our tails out every time we played them," said Singletary. "He didn't have the greatest arm strength in the world but Joe could manage the game, and he could take the game where it needed to go. When I look at the quarterback situation, it's kind of corky, kind of crazy how you figure it out. You just need a football player who can do whatever you need to do for the team to win."
And Singletary made no bones about it – winning is the bottom line, and he doesn't mean a popularity contest either.
Singletary was asked on Monday about the crowd's boos over O'Sullivan's mishaps on Sunday, and the boisterous applause that Hill received when he entered the game.
"Regardless of who is back there, whether it's JT, whether it's Shaun Hill- we win, all is forgiven and you go forward. Maybe JT goes out there on the field after the bye week and they boo, boo, boo and he throws a couple of touchdowns, and it's like, 'Go get 'em JT.' We all know how that works. So, that's the least that I think about. The most important thing right now is that we come to a decision about what is best for the last half of the season, and giving ourselves a chance to get into the playoffs and fighting for a spot. To me, that's the most important thing."