NFL Playoffs 2012: Why Alex Smith Will Take Step Closer to Aaron Rodgers' Level

Dan Renfro@danrenfroCorrespondent IIIJanuary 22, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14:  Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers runs in for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The 2012 NFL playoffs have been Alex Smith's arrival.

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback has played incredibly well this year, and he has led his team to the NFC championship.

Now he is ready to take a step closer to Aaron Rodgers.

You probably know by now, but if not, I'll refresh your memory a little bit.

In the 2005 NFL draft, the 49ers took Smith No. 1 overall, and Rodgers fell to the Green Bay Packers at No. 24. Since then, the Packers developed Rodgers and he has become a Super Bowl MVP (with a regular season MVP possibly on the way).

Meanwhile, Smith dealt with a constantly changing offensive system, different bad coaches and an untalented team. He was put on the same list as other No. 1 overall busts like Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell.

Now, however, after his renaissance under Jim Harbaugh, no one is putting him on that level. So, will Smith ever rise to Rodgers' level?

Well, maybe not completely, but he can certainly take a step in that direction.

Smith will not wow you with stats like Rodgers. He probably won't date women like Rodgers. And he won't star in as many State Farm commercials as Rodgers.

Nevertheless, Smith has made great strides so far this year, and he can keep going.

Smith is no longer the butt of jokes, and he is in the NFC championship. With a solid performance, he could end up in the Super Bowl one year after Rodgers was there.

If he wins, he and Rodgers are nearly on the same plane.

Sort of.

The stars are aligning for Smith, and he has the chance to become a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. With a good game against the Giants, Smith should be able to win. Then, it's up to him to come up big again.

Smith has been counted out dozens of times, similar to how Rodgers didn't get a chance for many years. Now he is trying to become a Super Bowl champion. Like Rodgers.

Smith has quarterbacked one of the most complete teams in the NFL all year, and he's done it well. He just has to continue doing that.

If (and when) he does play well, Smith will make a giant leap towards Rodgers' status.