The reality is, Alex Smith did nothing wrong to lose the starting quarterback job for the San Francisco 49ers this season. But once second-year dual-threat Colin Kaepernick was given the reins, he ran away with the job...literally.
Smith, of course, lost his starting gig after sustaining a concussion in the 24-24 tie against the St. Louis Rams in Week 10. Kaepernick promptly led the 49ers back from a 17-7 deficit in the fourth quarter, and the rest was history.
After Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 181 yards and two scores in the 45-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round last week, it's safe to say the 49ers don't want to pay Smith $8.5 million next season if the veteran is going to be a backup.
But Smith deserves to start for an NFL team elsewhere next season.
There are several quarterback-needy (emphasis on needy) teams that should give Smith a shot under center if the opportunity presents itself.
Also, pairing up Smith with new Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner may not be a bad idea, given Turner's prior relationship with Smith in San Francisco (while Turner may not be head coach material, he's still widely regarded as a strong OC in the NFL).
Smith's ideal fit would be on a team that can play defense and has some receiving weapons at its disposal. Unfortunately, there aren't many teams with issues at quarterback that fit that description (although, a strong draft could change that).
Still, Smith has proven that he's not just a game-manager. He averaged 7.97 yards per pass attempt this season, which would have placed him fourth among all quarterbacks if he qualified. He also completed over 70 percent of his throws, which would have made him tops in the league with enough pass attempts.
In his past two seasons, Smith has proven that he is a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL, not a fluke. He has also proven that he can actually win games for you instead of simply playing within the game plan. I mean, he led the 49ers to seven fourth-quarter comebacks in 2011.
Smith should be one of the top targets for quarterback-needy teams in the offseason. Whoever lands him will be happy too.
What are your thoughts?