Filed under: Editorial | Tags: 49ers win, alex smith, alex smith injury, elvis grbac, fire mike nolan, jim hostler, ted tollner, trent dilfer
Let the love fest for Trent Dilfer begin.
When Alex Smith went out with a separated shoulder, opinion ran the gamut on when he would see action again, whether or not he would require surgery, and how this injury would affect the 49ers season. Smith started against New Orleans, and after every throw he would grimace and pull on his shoulder pad at the obvious discomfort in his shoulder. Time after time his throws sailed on him, something they had never done before.
We saw Smith go to the sideline where trainers removed his pads, pressed his shoulder down, taped it up, and he came back out. After the game Smith was praised by his coach for his toughness, and we all hailed him as finally becoming the leader on this team. However, this sort of thing continued against Atlanta, and finally the debacle against Seattle on Monday Night Football. Fans declared on the message boards that something was still medically wrong with Alex Smith, and he shouldn’t even be out there. Cries abounded that Mike Nolan was mortgaging the future and wasting his very expensive quarterback of the future.
After the Seattle game, the obvious truth came out: Alex Smith was still hurt, and it was affecting his play. Now, Mike Nolan had two roads to pick here, and unfortunately for him and us, he took the low one. For the entire length of the losing streak, we heard Mike Nolan say that the losses came down to execution by the players, and in large part he was right. From Wide Receiver drops to Offensive line play, I’ve screamed this from the mountaintops, and it’s very fair to say.
However, Nolan also failed to realize the ineptitude of his Offensive Coordinator until Week Eleven! The medical staff also apparently failed to recognize that Smith’s ligaments were still torn! How does this escape doctors reading an MRI? In fact, we were flat lied to because they said it appeared that the ligaments had reattached and had scarred over properly, and the only thing that remained was to play through pain.
We now know that to be patently false, for in fact the ligaments are still torn and have not scarred over, and Smith may after all require surgery. We also now understand that the agressive rehabilitation strained Smith’s forearm, rendering him incapable of gripping the ball properly, directly resulting in the sailing throws.
Mike Nolan continued the player execution mantra, saying Smith was fine and merely lacked confidence throwing the football, and Smith had finally had enough. When Nolan decried his quarterback going to the media first, Smith was asked about it. He said he did in fact tell Nolan that he was not up to par, but that he was apparently misunderstood. Judging by Mike Nolan’s historic inability to:
- Understand offense
- Realize Hostler’s shortcomings
- Properly use timeouts
- Bench an offensive lineman for bad play
- Bench a wide receiver for bad play
- Know how a player did BEFORE reviewing game film…
Is it really any surprise that he would misunderstand what Smith is telling him?
Instead, after praising Smith’s toughness, Nolan said, “Everybody’s sore. I’m sore, but do I talk about it? No.” Nolan gave us the old “Tom Brady played well last year with a forearm strain,” without mentioning the severity of said strain. When Smith’s agent Tom Condon said that the rehabilitation from the injury was too much too soon, thereby causing the forearm strain, Mike Nolan said, “I respect your question, but I don’t respect the source,” a backhanded insult to Condon. When Julian Peterson of the Seahawks said that Smith was still hurt, Nolan lambasted him as not being a doctor. Turns out he was right, eh Mike?
Finally, in the most astounding episode of this saga to date, Mike Nolan apparently stated some time after the Rams game, that Dilfer’s performance in that game was “the best quarterbacking play since I came to the team.” If this is true, this is the most ridiculous, most asenine, most detrimental thing to say in regard to his relationship with Alex Smith. Trent Dilfer threw for 47%, 232 yards, and 2 interceptions, for a quarterback rating somewhere around 48. Last I checked, Alex Smith has had a slew games better than that, most especially last year’s performance in Seattle.
To be told Trent Dilfer is a better quarterback for throwing no touchdowns and two interceptions can only come across poorly to Smith. He is the youngest starting quarterback in the NFL, and one of the youngest starters ever. It is hardly fair to say that with the offense finally having gotten on track that Smith had ample chance to show his improvement. It is so easy to forget that Smith’s accurate passes have been dropped, or that the line failed to open any lanes for Frank Gore in roughly every game in which Smith played. And we cannot understate the effect of his injury.
Mike Nolan may be thinking that if he ticks Alex off enough, the fire in his belly will be unquenchable and he’ll develop that devil-may-care, stay out of my way attitude displayed by Brett Favre, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. He’s walking a fine line here, though. On the other side lies the crushing of a kid’s confidence and livelihood, or the forced trade of a commodity any number of NFL teams would jump at the chance to acquire. It’s okay, though: maybe Nolan will part with him for a 4th round pick. I’m not worried about Alex Smith. I’m worried that we might lose him for good.
As far as Trent Dilfer is concerned, his whole career has been marked by average games followed by terrible performances. Dilfer has long since been crowned king of the letdown. He’s so old that he was a bust before Akili Smith was a bust. He’s the only Super Bowl-winning quarterback to be traded by his team the following season. As a matter of fact, his career passer rating is about equal to Smith’s rating from last season.
Over the course of his career, Dilfer has failed to be cognizant of his own limitations. Whenever people praise him enough, whenever he has a game most would consider good, he begins to think of himself as John Elway. In his Super Bowl winning season he played in 11 games, threw for 1500 yards on 59% completions, threw 12 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and finished the season with a rating of 76.6. His career average is 6.6 yards per completion, nowhere close to the elites of the league, and he has never thrown for more than 2,800 yards in a season.
Conversely, last season Smith threw for 2980 yards, 58% completions, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and finished with a rating of 74.8 in his second year as a pro. So drag the name of Alex Smith through the mud, 49er fans. It’s so very easy to do.
After all, we have the guy who was traded because Elvis Grbac was seen as an upgrade to a Super Bowl winner.
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