Liotta: With improved Smith, 49ers have a bright future 

No matter what happens the rest of the way, in my book, the 2009 season goes down as a success for the 49ers.

That’s because, to me, the Niners have proven Alex Smith can be the team’s franchise quarterback.

I’m not saying he will be that player. I’m not saying he’s a sure thing. However, Smith’s play the last two weeks proves that the Niners can create a situation in which the former No. 1 pick can be successful.

Last week against the Seahawks, Smith played his best game as a pro, looking like he has all it takes to be a successful NFL quarterback.

For the 49ers to be in this position three months after their preseason quarterback questions is almost unbelieveable. They may have answered the toughest question a franchise has to ask if they want to compete for a championship.

It’s pretty easy to make the case that there are only 12 NFL teams who believe they have sure things at the quarterback position:

Arizona (Kurt Warner), Cincinnati (Carson Palmer), Dallas (Tony Romo), Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers), Indianapolis (Peyton Manning), Minnesota (Brett Favre), New England (Tom Brady), New Orleans (Drew Brees), New York Giants (Eli Manning), Philadelphia (Donovan McNabb), Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger) and San Diego (Philip Rivers).

If we figure Warner and Favre are short-term fixes (two years or less), we’re looking at just 10 of 32 NFL teams who are operating right now thinking they have their 2012 quarterback under center. 

Even if by season’s end the 49ers were simply to join Atlanta (Matt Ryan), Baltimore (Joe Flacco), Houston (Matt Shaub), Kansas City (Matt Cassel), the New York Jets (Mark Sanchez) and Chicago (Jay Cutler) as teams with promising young players at quarterback, declare 2009 a success. At the start of the season, the Niners were nowhere in this category.

That’s because Mike Singletary and his coaching staff will put Smith up alongside Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis in the nucleus moving forward. The Niners will have their skill position players and their defensive leader under contract.

With two 2010 first-round draft choices and a successful offseason, the 49ers could be a team poised to be formidable next year.

Random thoughts

Earlier this week, a report had Agent Scott Boras pushing free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre on the Giants. I don’t care if Boras points out that Beltre is 30 years old. If there is one major league player who’s looked older than Edgar Renteria the last couple of years its Beltre. Stay away, stay very far away.

The three-way deal that sent center fielder Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees, with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks adding younger players looks like a perfect blueprint for the kind of deal the Giants could pull to add a serious hitter to their roster.

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

49ers vs. Cardinals

WHEN: Monday, 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Candlestick Park
TV: ESPN
RADIO: KNBR (680 AM), KSAN (107.7 FM)

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