I know you are sitting there thinking I am making this up just to have something to talk about, but as you see from picture above, USA TODAY SPORTS WEEKLY has already started throwing around the word “elite” and Alex Smith in the same sentence. Are you serious? Didn’t the so-called “experts” learn last year not to throw the word “elite” around? Wasn’t it bad enough these same imbecile writers, talk show hosts and football analyst made the same delusive remarks about Eli Manning? I guess they have not learned anything, so let me open the book of knowledge and educate all of those who thought this writer from USA TODAY SPORTS WEEKLY knew what he was talking about.
Now even though I just wrote a piece two days ago called The San Fransisco 49ers have the recipe for a PERFECT season, I never once made such a boisterous accusation about Alex Smith. As a matter of fact I went on record saying:
“Quarterback – (Alex Smith) a former number one overall pick from the University of Utah that spent his first six years throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and making the fans of San Fransisco hate him with his dismal performances on the field. But wait, in comes Jim Harbaugh‘s ”system” and now we have the same quarterback, but now he holds the 49ers single season record for least amount of INTs in a season (5) and the 49ers franchise record for the most consecutive passes without an INT (216 and still counting). Alex Smith might throw less than 20 TDs a season and average under 200 yards a game, but he does NOT turn the ball over in this system and has proved this system is a winning system.”
Now how hard is it to be honest about a player like Alex Smith and not throw out deceptive labels. I am not going to disregard the things he has done over the last 18 games. Alex Smith has gone 313 for 502 (62.4%) with 3,581 yards, 21 TDs and 5 INTs in this stretch. Very impressive and if this was how the rest of his career looked or was the beginning of his career, then I would say yes he is making a case that he’s an elite quarterback. That is not the case and there is more to it, more to why Alex Smith has turned things around.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane before we discuss the changes that has turned Smith’s numbers around. In his first 5 seasons (Smith did not play the 2008 season), Smith was a dismal 864 for 1,514 (57.1%) with a laughable 9,399 yards, 51 TDs and 53 INTs. It got to a point in San Fransisco that the fans had a very strong repugnance against Smith. The fans were getting very frustrated with an organization that restructured one contract and signed an extension to a quarterback that the fans did not want. Bad decisions, turnovers and lack of arm strength were all key reasons for the concern for the fans and team when it came to Alex Smith for so many years.
In 2011 things were, for the most part, exactly opposite. No he didn’t gain arm strength, but the turnovers and bad decisions went out the door. But before people, USA TODAY SPORTS WEEKLY, start giving him all the credit and start throwing “elite” in the same sentence as Alex Smith, let’s look at the real reason for this change. Alex Smith did not wake up one morning and decide he was done throwing interceptions, but instaed, a new system was installed. The Jim Harbaugh System. A system that focuses on Alex Smith’s strengths and stays away from his weaknesses. A system that allows Smith to throw short accurate passes, 5 to 7 yards little dump passes, while allowing the receivers to do what they do best and gain YAC. With receivers like Vernon Davis, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Ted Ginn Jr and Michael Crabtree, the 49ers made sure that Smith had some of the most reliable receivers in the league. You throw all that in and add a well-balanced ground game (Frank Gore/Kendall Hunter), there is no longer pressure on Smith. Smith can now go out and play toss, like he was in the backyard, while having all the confidence in the world.
Do I think Alex Smith will ever be labeled an “elite” quarterback. probably not. Even with Harbaugh’s System, Smith has managed to put himself so far in the hole statistically that he will probably never hit “elite” status. A multiple Super Bowl Champion, multiple Pro Bowls and even set some records are all possible in this system, but not “elite”!