For the record, I think Alex Smith is going to have a career year this year. My projection: 3,500 yards, 28 touchdowns (three by way of rushing), and 11 interceptions, leading the team to an 11-5 record, then going 2-1 in the playoffs.
But what's the worst case scenario?
The wost case scenario would be absolute and total assurance that Smith is a bust and was a poor draft choice. Maybe nine touchdowns, 20 interceptions, and 1100 yards, posting a 1-6 record before being supplanted by David Carr, or even Nate Davis. The Faithful would never again believe in Smith if he did this, and the hunt for a new QB would be full on.
The Scout motto is "be prepared" and although many fans would dwell on our not canning Smith, trading for or drafting a QB (probably not happening), or seasoning Nate Davis with game experience; the best of the Faithful would have a plan B, C, and D already in place.
What would these courses of action be?
Plan A: Stay the course with Alex Smith, no matter how terrible he does. This would be terrible if he fell. It would risk everything and alienate fans to the point of no return. Let's just not go there.
Plan B: Who do we already have?
If the 49ers don't draft a quarterback in this year's draft, there would be the option of staying the course. The rest of the 2010 season would have Carr and Nate Davis prove their worth against each other, and they would go into camp competing for the starting job in 2011.
Carr's experience versus Davis' youth and instinct could produce a decent controversy, and one would come out on top.
Plan C: Trade or sign another free agent.
There are notable, non-starting quarterbacks in the league with youth and experience. Although they would come at a cost, there would be options. Here's a short list of some potential targets I wouldn't mind bringing in for an audition:
Colt Brennan—Washington Redskins. Colt has a nice timely release and deadly accuracy. He is currently lying in wait amid the Washington Redskins quarterback shuffle.
Donovan McNabb—Washington Redskins. Although McNabb is reportedly hammering out an extension in Washington, he did express interest in playing for the 49ers at one point.
Trent Edwards—Buffalo Bills. A big local kid from Los Gatos who later played at Stanford, Edwards should be a free agent in 2011. Upon his arrival in Buffalo in the third round of the 2007 draft, Bill Walsh contacted Bills general manager Marv Levy to express confidence in Edwards' abilities. I state with limited relevance that Trent's picture hangs proudly above the counter at Los Gato's Meat Co.
Matt Lienart—Arizona Cardinals. With a contract that has Arizona pulling their hair out, south-paw USC alumni Lienart could be very available in the not-too-distant future.
Bruce Gradkowski—Oakland Raiders. The hard-nosed tough guy from across the bay has only pure grit and determination going for him—and the drive to just win in spite of injuries.
Graham Harrell—Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL). You can be a has been or you can be a never-was. Graham is a boarder-line never-was, who only led a dominant power-house Texas Tech offense that featured (yup) Michael Crabtree to many accomplishments. The most vivid memory of Graham is the final game winning TD drive against No.1 Texas in 2008. After going undrafted, Harrell has continued to play professional football, albeit in Canada—where the northern rules make the game resemble a sport from another solar system.
Plan D: The 2011 and 2012 NFL Draft.
If Smith were to drop off the face of planet 49er, Carr and Davis may only take us so far, and the future would need to be addressed immediately. There will be several talented young quarterbacks coming into the league over the next few years, but one stands out to me right now—Kellen Moore.
The Boise State standout has so far compiled a record of 26-1. In 2008, his first year as a starter, Moore had 25 touchdowns and nine picks. His encore performance in 2009 yielded 39 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also avenged his only loss (a 16-17 Poinsettia Bowl heart-breaker to TCU) last year in the Fiesta Bowl. His squirrely size is'nt prototypical for a quarterback, but his drive to win far supersedes this. And the icing on the cake? He's a dynamic lefty, so offenses need to tailor a game plan just for him, although receivers do need to adjust to counter-clockwise spirals.
So to drive the point home here—I believe in Alex Smith. As I take that leap of faith, however, let's try to keep the safety net intact.