The job is Shaun Hill's, all his, except for his strained lower back and a few dozen other pertinent questions about his full capacity for NFL success.
If Hill is dinged up for a while, the 49ers' quarterback job transfers to Alex Smith, no problem, except for Smith's sprained right thumb and a cloud of doubt about his actual worth. And if neither is healthy by Saturday's exhibition game in Dallas — or, good gracious, the Sept. 13 season opener in Arizona — then "... then "... then "...
Your 49ers starting quarterback will be either Damon Huard or Nate Davis.
That's a screaming one-sentence summary of a true QB quandary, for the short, middle and long term.
If all goes well the 49ers still have a major issue at QB, and we know the 49ers never win unless they're loaded at QB.
And if things continue to go awry "...
"It doesn't bother me a bit," coach Mike Singletary said after Wednesday's morning practice, in which Hill was greatly limited (sidelined after one throw) and Smith sat out completely. "It is what it is."
There's really nothing more Singletary or general manager Scot McCloughan can do at this point, except hope for the best.
The 49ers' QB situation was sketchy all through camp, now it's injury-affected and sketchy, and in a few weeks it could be sketchy and headed to an emergency search for a long-term replacement.
Remember, this team tried hard to get Kurt Warner last winter and took a casual glance at Jay Cutler, and failed to land either.
It's hard to believe that the 49ers have a playoff-caliber QB on this roster, and management probabl y doesn't violently disagree with that assessment.
The 49ers might not even have their 2010 starter currently in Santa Clara, either, unless Davis blooms far faster than expected.
More to the point, with two-a-day practices just completed, the two live candidates for the long-term job are suddenly both sidelined.
Weird timing, since Hill was named the starter Monday and since Smith and Hill were jousting for the job as recently as Saturday's game against the Raiders.
Hill gave a thumbs-up to reporters as he jogged into the locker room after Wednesday's morning practice, but back problems are not often kind to QBs.
Smith is definitely out for this weekend, and he's the guy who lost the QB derby in the first place.
Meanwhile, top draft pick and potential game-breaker Michael Crabtree remains unsigned and unlikely to soon join the team or start hauling in touchdown passes.
So it makes a lot of sense that running back Frank Gore has been loudly announced as the team's central figure on offense.
"Right now, I'm trying to be the best player on the field on Sunday," Gore said. "If I stay healthy, I will be the best player."
But running backs can't always remain healthy, and good defenses can normally stack up the run even against the best ground attacks. Which is when QBs are called upon to save the day.
What can the 49ers do now, other than the hope-and-pray option?
Well, they have an extra 2010 No. 1 pick (acquired from Carolina), a nice chip to use in QB hunting.
Is it time to go shopping, maybe sooner rather than later? Maybe for Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn, whoever loses the QB battle in Cleveland.
Maybe they hold off for now, absorb another tough season, and get in position to draft Oklahoma's Sam Bradford or Texas' Colt McCoy.
But for now, the job is Hill's, if his back holds up. I asked Singletary: How deep is his commitment to Hill as the starter?
"It's not (just) a week-to-week thing," Singletary said. "I don't want him looking to the sidelines wondering if I'm going to take him out, put somebody else. "... No, we're not going to do that."
The job is Hill's, unless he's hurt or until he proves he shouldn't have it. For the short term, the 49ers should be worried.
For the long term, they should make sure they never get into this worrisome position again. By 2010, if they're lucky, they should get it right.
Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5442.