According to Matt Maiocco (csnbayarea.com), the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, is working closely with Alex Smith in hopes of improving his "mechanics." According to this report:
"Smith will be working on keeping his front leg flexed while throwing and he will be trying to drop back in a straighter line. Smith goes off center while dropping back, something that the team feels is affecting his accuracy."
I find this report absolutely fascinating. The 49ers could not have picked a better time to work on this. At the same time, this also seems like the most obvious thing to do. We've seen Smith, in past seasons, completely miss his target, either by overthrowing the ball or leaving it short. In the past, Smith's problems with accuracy had led him to throw more interceptions than the 49ers would've liked.
We even saw some issues with Smith's accuracy from time to time last season, but it wasn't as common as it was in prior seasons. Smith only threw five interceptions last season. That's half as many as the season before. He also completed 61.3 of his passes. The only issue (if you want to call it an issue) is that he didn't necessarily perform like an elite quarterback, or close to one.
Hopefully, that might change a bit.
Smith was (may still be) labeled as a "game manager," perhaps because he wasn't trying to force plays like he was before. The game manager label almost seemed appropriate considering the 49ers run game and defense played the biggest roles in the 49ers' wins.
The 49ers weren't always as good as they were last season. That's changed when they acquired a new head coach, Jim Harbaugh, who seemed to have a huge effect on the team.
How much will Smith improve after he works on his mechanics?
The reason I think this report is so fascinating is that it is the first time that Smith is coming back to the same offensive coordinator, coach and playbook. By working on Smith's mechanics, the 49ers have made it clear that they expect Smith to be more than a "game manager."
Of course, we've already gotten that impression by the recent additions to the 49ers wide receiver core: Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and AJ Jenkins. First they acquired wide receivers and now they are improving Smith's mechanics.
There will be criticisms about this though. Some will say that the fact that Smith even needs to work on his mechanics just goes to show that he's not a good enough to be an elite quarterback. Smith is entering his eighth year as a 49er and some might argue that if he doesn't have it down by now then he might not ever get it down.
These criticisms are inevitable, no matter how pointless they appear. The fact is, the 49ers are planning on making Smith a big part of their attempt to put points on the board. Thus, this move by the 49ers is not only the obvious thing to do, it's also smart.
The 49ers were attempting to get Peyton Manning before Smith re-signed with the team. They didn't get Manning, so what did they decide to do? Harbaugh, Roman and the rest of the offensive coaching staff decided to invest more of their energy on developing Smith into a better quarterback, something that the 49ers' past head coaches should've done.
Though it may be true that Smith will never throw the ball like Manning, at least Harbaugh and the 49ers are trying to do their best to work with what they got.
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