Filed under: Editorial
Something was amiss about Alex Smith at the start of this season, but we didn’t know what until he went on injured reserve for 2008. When did Smith’s shoulder experience the stress fracture? Was it when Rocky Bernard crushed him to the turf, separating his shoudler? Was it the strenuous weight-lifting on a shoulder unsupported by the clavicle? Was it Martz’s strenuous throwing regimen before training camp? No one can answer that question, but regardless, a bone fragment found itself floating inside Smith’s shoulder, ending his season.
In 2006 he was plagued by inconsistency, half his games good, the other half not. But the improvement over his rookie season was the largest in league history. It was a foundation on which to build. This preseason, Smith was plagued by errant throws, either consistently behind or above the receiver. He was learning yet another new offense, but where was the usual zip in his throws?
Gone was the kid who threw 60 yards in the wind from his knees during his pro day at Utah. Gone was the player who they said had no touch, and would deliver 5-yard passes with uncatchable mustard. Smith said it himself, that he felt comfortable throwing, but the deep throws were still a little rough. The attempted deep ball to Morgan, which fell flat in the preseason game, immediately leaps to mind. Never before had Smith underthrown a deep ball that badly, and especially a skinny post. His overthrows are myriad, but an underthrow?
Smith’s critics continue to say he was never any good at all, while those who like him as a player remember the good games in 2006, essentially a rookie season after the adjustment in 2005 from a spread option offense to a pro-style offense. 2007 was his first chance to improve on that, and three healthy games with probably the worst offensive coordinator in league history is nothing to judge by.
John Elway, in his recent column for the Sporting News, talked about JaMarcus Russell’s struggles, but it is the exact thing that happened to Alex Smith: “The fastest way to ruin a quarterback is to put him on a bad team, with a bad line, with no weapons, with no continuity in the coaching staff. That pretty much describes the current Raiders.” It absolutely describes what happened to Alex Smith.
Here’s the point: Smith’s chances to be a good NFL quarterback were cut short by injury. It’s the plain and simple truth. Football Karma is witness to the fact that despite all difficulties, Smith has conducted himself as a professional. Yesterday I brought to you the facts about Mike Nolan and his reputation in the locker room, and only one man had the balls to stand up and say the truth, and that was Alex Smith. And he clearly didn’t go far enough. He had been a good soldier, he had kept his mouth shut, he had done his best with the resources given to him.
Now Mike Nolan is gone, and Smith remains. He had every right to take a walk and leave San Francisco behind him, but he requested to stay with the team. He takes every opportunity to sit on the sideline and soak in everything he can from Mike Martz. Despite the treatment he received from Mike Nolan, he chose to stay on that sideline and be the teammate his fellow quarterbacks need. Word is that he even has his agent trying to work out a league minimum deal so that he can remain with the team.
This speaks volumes to me, and probably speaks volumes to his teammates. He stuck his neck out, risking his reputation, while others stayed silent. Now that Mike Nolan is gone, I’m sure some of them have the utmost respect for Smith because of that. What kills me is the complete lack of intellectual honesty on the part of fans and media. Smith isn’t a bust because he’s not done yet. Four seasons, two lost to injury and one a total adjustment where Rattay should have played the whole season. Only one season that actually counts for anything, and they blame Smith. Scot McCloughan said “it’s not all Mike Nolan’s fault.” It’s more his than Smith’s.
My next prediction is as obvious as it was when I first mentioned the word prediction. I can, at the very least, with confidence, predict that Alex Smith will be on the team next season. My Big, Bold, Dumb Prediction #3 is that Smith will be the starter next season. Why? It goes back to everything I said last time about the Yorks. Do you think they want to take a chance on developing a new quarterback? Don’t worry, they’ll draft one, I’ll bank on that.
I don’t believe new Head Coach Mike Singletary will bank on Shaun Hill going forward, and I think O’Sullivan will have a nice time on the waiver wire. Mike Martz will be gone because of O’Sullivan, and Big, Bold, Dumb Prediction #4 is that Singletary’s Offensive Coordinator will be a loyal man, and a disciple of the West Coast Offense. His coaching idol created it. I think Singletary trusts it.
People will say Smith is too slow for it. They’ll say his arm is better suited to throwing it downfield. I say it works just fine for Donovan McNabb who, last I checked, has a pretty strong arm. I say look at Joe Montana, and tell me he had a quick release. You can’t. These are my predictions. Let’s see what happens.
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