The reaction to Alex Smith losing the San Francisco 49ers starting gig to Colin Kaepernick has been strange to say the least. Smith has received an outpouring of sympathy and support from fans and media who apparently just started watching Smith play in 2011.
Up until 2011 Alex Smith was the kind of player that made me turn the channel. If the San Francisco 49ers were playing I wasn’t watching. I always found Smith to be a very average QB who was prone to making mistakes when he needed to step up. The stats back this up and reputation is representative of those stats. Yet thanks to the genius of Jim Harbaugh and his staff he somehow turned Smith into a clutch player the last season and a half.
Smith played a brilliant season last year. Smith quarterbacked the 49ers to the NFC title game, one game away from the Super Bowl. Make no mistake about it. Smith did everything he could to put the 49ers in position to win. Unfortunately a mistake out of his hands sealed the deal for a loss. However even though the mistake was not his the one common theme repeated all of last season and this off season was that all the 49ers needed was a good QB to put them over the top. In other words, nobody was buying Smith’s run.
Smith returned to the 49ers this season but the writing was on the wall. This was not a short term commitment by the 49ers and nothing more. The 49ers aggressively pursued Peyton Manning in the offseason. Smith was reportedly upset and shopped his services in free agency. Of 32 teams only two were interested, with the only real offer coming from the 49ers. The offer was hardly a vote of confidence as the team gave themselves an out with a roster bonus due in April 2013. Smith took the deal and should have been looking over his shoulder since throw #1 this season.
It wasn’t as if Kaepernick came out of nowhere. New head coach Jim Harbaugh drafted Kaepernick in the 2011 draft. Chances are pretty good that when the new coach uses a high pick on a QB that he plans on using him in the near future. Kaepernick has also been integrated into the offense this season, doing things that Smith wouldn’t be able to do. It was obvious to anyone watching what kind of offense Harbaugh wanted and that was an offense that wasn’t going to include Smith.
Don’t feel sorry for Smith. Smith has had a full seven years to close the deal in San Francisco. Up until this season, he has had a completion percentage of 61% and below, with abysmal results from 2005-2010. It wasn’t all of his fault but he did nothing in those first five years to convince anyone that he was a championship QB in the NFL. Think about it. How many other NFL QBs would have survived after five terrible seasons in a row? Not many in this era of NFL QBs. Smith has nobody to blame but himself for this mess.
Let’s see what happens with Smith in the offseason. My hunch is that he’ll get a chance to compete somewhere for a starting job. Maybe he has the last word against the 49ers and succeeds and Kaepernick struggles? I doubt it.
Don’t feel sorry for Alex Smith. He had plenty of chances and the message was clear from opening day. His job was never safe.
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