Alex Smith deserves another chance to start in pro football.
Given how much he is owed over the next two seasons, it wouldn't be surprising to see the San Francisco 49ers try to part ways this offseason.
Colin Kaepernick is clearly the future after having kept the team rolling since he took over, and he is a few years younger than Smith as well. In short, more time for him to develop under the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh.
Smith, however, has proven his true capabilities over the past two seasons. In 2011 he finished with a 61.3 completion percentage and tossed 17 scores to only five picks. That subsequent postseason, Smith threw five touchdowns to zero picks in two games and epitomized his dependable mobility on this Tecmo Super Bowl-esque touchdown run.
In short, this entire season led to a strong beginning for 2012.
Through the first eight games, he had 12 touchdowns to only five picks and a 70.1 completion percentage. Not to mention the 49ers were 6-2. He then was performing well against the St. Louis Rams early, by going 7-of-8 with a touchdown.
Unfortunately, Smith was knocked out, and Kaepernick's eventual history took over. That said, there are teams in dire need of a quarterback, and the 2013 NFL Draft doesn't offer much talent compared to 2012.
This makes Smith quite appealing this offseason. Here, we break down his capabilities as evidence of his potential.
Note: All screen-caps are courtesy of NFL.com's Game Rewind.
The Catch III, 2012 NFC Divisional vs. New Orleans Saints
This play is Smith's clutch reliability in a nutshell.
After the rushing touchdown to put San Francisco up, the 49ers defense gave up a touchdown less than one minute later.
So, Smith had to once again drive the 'Niners into scoring position for a chance to play in the NFC title game. Facing a 3rd-and-4 with 14 seconds remaining, Smith took the shotgun snap and was given a Cover 2 look from New Orleans.
Vernon Davis is lined up in the twins bunch to Smith's left, and the linebacker across has the proper inside leverage.
Once getting the snap, Smith looks downfield to freeze the safety. Notice the linebacker, still with sound inside leverage on Davis, peeking into the backfield.
As he makes the pass, Davis is slipping behind the 'backer and underneath the safety. Smith's marksmanship is perfect on this pass, because it's made during Davis' break on the route. Plus he takes advantage of the linebacker peeking and losing inside leverage.
Here, we take a look at the narrow window Smith fired the rock into.
It was just out of the linebacker's reach, because the shorter yellow line indicates where his feet are compared to Davis. The longer line is the other linebacker who read the play a hair late, and the thin line is the space between Davis and the safety as he makes the reception.
From the angle this window is roughly one yard wide based on where the defender's feet are, at the most, when Davis hauls in the dart.
Had Smith even only been a nanosecond late on the throw, one of those three defenders would have broken up this pass.
Week 7 of 2012 Season, vs. Seattle Seahawks
Losing 6-3 at home in the third quarter against the Seahawks in Week 7, San Francisco had to get a win on a short week, especially after having been crushed by the New York Giants in Week 6.
The lone touchdown of the contest eventually came from a Smith pass to Delanie Walker, and San Francisco won 13-6. That score, however, does not occur unless Smith hits Michael Crabtree two plays before.
A play that converted a 3rd-and-9 into a 1st-and-10 late in the third.
Seattle comes out rushing its front four and manning up on the outside. The key to this play's success, though, is Smith quickly surveying the field.
He first looks to his left (our right). Keep an eye on the middle linebacker, because he continues to get coverage depth as the play unfolds.
Smith then looks to the middle and eyes the 'backer. Now his depth is even greater, which bodes well in opening up the underneath routes.
The final read is to Crabtree. Smith makes the fast throw and check out how much room he has to run. The nearest unblocked defender is the linebacker that Smith continuously looked off with his progression.
If his initial read goes to Crabtree and that pass is immediately made, Seattle's defense can rally much quicker to make the tackle before the first down is converted. Instead, the opposite happens, San Francisco ultimately scores and eventually wins.
Will Alex Smith ever start again in the NFL?
Regarding Smith's development as a pro quarterback, it's easy to say he disappointed early in his career. And most of that can also be attributed to getting selected No. 1 overall.
At the same time, Smith has played under numerous offensive coordinators and head coaches. So his adjustment and adaptability under Harbaugh is not surprising.
Provide him with a sound running game, and the guy will produce, period.
For as frustrating as he played prior to the 2011 season, Smith was never really that bad. By no means is he an elite NFL quarterback, but being backed by decent playmakers allows him to increase efficiency.
Whether it's the New York Jets or Philadelphia Eagles, each with a strong ground game, or someone like the Arizona Cardinals, who provide Larry Fitzgerald, Smith possesses the talent to help these offenses.
And the guy has proven worthy of a starting gig in pro football.
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