San Francisco 49ers: Is Alex Smith a Viable NFL MVP Candidate?

Vincent Frank@VincentFrankNFLCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2012

Courtesy of SF Gate
Courtesy of SF Gate

We might be only five weeks through the 2012 NFL regular season, but certain things seem to be taking shape. Some expected, others not.

The Cleveland Browns are 0-5; seriously, I think we all expected that. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings, St Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts already have won a combined two more games than they did last season.

Even less expected, Alex Smith is a viable MVP candidate.

Oh, maybe there should have been a question mark somewhere there; grammar isn't my strong suit. Either way, it seems like ol' No. 11 isn't just improved over last season but is a mere shell of his former pedestrian self. In shell I mean, a whopping stuffed Italian shell with meatballs...Yum!

Smith leads the NFL in quarterback rating. Yes, you read that right. He doesn't just lead the San Francisco 49ers (which would only include Colin Kaepernick); he leads the entire National Football League in quarterback rating. Eat your hearts out Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Eli "Elite" Manning.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, Smith is on pace to possess the third-highest quarterback rating in 49er history behind Steve Young in 1994 and Joe Montana in 1989. What do those two seasons have in common? I will leave it to you to figure that out.

Even more impressive, Smith is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and possesses an astounding eight-to-one TD/INT ratio. Of course when you throw only one interception in a total of nearly 300 pass attempts, something is going right. Though, it must be noted that Smith is tied with the aforementioned Brady with just one interception. Interestingly enough, they both have eight touchdowns.

The simple fact that we are comparing Smith to a three-time Super Bowl Champion is alarming enough. Already, he was compared to both Young and Montana in this article.

As it relates to Young, his career could be said to have followed nearly the same path as Smith.

The Hall of Fame quarterback lost 16 of his first 19 NFL starts while throwing 11 touchdowns compared to 21 touchdowns during that span, all with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the sample size was much smaller for Young compared to Smith, one thing is important to note. Neither quarterback had much talent with which to work in their early years.

Okay, I just went off the proverbial farm for a second, but those comparisons are important to note. After all, the combination of Kevan Barlow and Arnaz Battle really isn't going to scare the collective jockstrap off opposing defenses.

With that, I am done being a Smith "apologist", as it seems he doesn't need one anymore.

He is leading the third-highest scoring offense in the NFL, is second in the league on completions for first downs, leads the world in quarterback rating and possesses the third-highest completion percentage in the league. For those of you who want to point to average completion, Smith ranks sixth in the league ahead of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan.

Oh, and he also possesses the best winning percentage of any starting quarterback in the NFL dating back to mid-December 2010. Yes, that includes Aaron Rodgers, who went 15-1 last season.

Is Smith the MVP through five weeks? Of course not. Will he be the MVP at the end of the season? Probably not.

San Francisco possesses the best running game in the NFL and one of the top three defenses in the league as well. MVP means most valuable to your team looking at all possible variables.

There are probably about 10 quarterbacks in the NFL who could lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl this season with the talent that they have. This doesn't even take into account running backs, wide receivers and defensive players who should be considered for the award.

Listen, I am not discounting what Smith means to the 49ers both on the field and off. I am just giving us all a dose of reality here. He isn't being asked to do a whole heck of a lot. Sure, there is a chance that Jim Harbaugh and Co. will put more games into the hands of Smith—not just blowouts like we saw on Sunday. However, that runs contrary to the strength of the team.

With that in mind, the simple fact that Smith is even being mentioned in the same breath as some of the most valuable players in the league is mighty impressive. Remember, the idea of most valuable doesn't indicate the best. I think that we can all come to the conclusion that Smith isn't near the upper-echelon in terms of talent in the NFL.

That really doesn't make any difference in terms of the conversation that this article is attempting to create.

The idea that Smith is a top MVP candidate may be foreign to some; it might not make any sense to those located east of the Mississippi. Heck, I am having a hard time even believing an article like this could be written with some sort of legitimacy. Hell, the Mayans might be right, which would preclude anyone from actually winning this award.

Still, us Smith "apologists" are basking in our glory, as I am pretty damn sure he is too.