Will the 49ers Let Alex Smith Go in the Off-Season?
"Should I Stay or Should I Go" is a song by the English punk rock band The Clash, from their album Combat Rock. It was written in 1981 and featured Mick Jones on lead vocals. It became the band's only No. 1 single (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).
The lyrics of that song were: "Darling you gotta let me know. Should I stay or should I go? If you say that you are mine, I'll be here till the end of time. So you gotta let me know. Should I stay or should I go?"
It has been almost six long years since that fateful day in 2005 when Alex Smith was drafted number one overall in the NFL Draft. At times he has been loved, at other times hated and some times, just plain felt sorry for (if one can even feel sorry for a multimillionaire quarterback in the NFL). He has been introduced to more new head coaches, offensive coordinators and offensive schemes than probably any other quarterback in the NFL these past several seasons.
The cynic in me says the 49ers should just let Alex Smith go this off-season. Release him outright. God speed Alex Smith! Don't let the door hit you in the butt on your way out.
In a few short months, or weeks, the San Francisco 49ers will have a new GM and a brand new head coach and coaching staff. Yes - another offensive coordinator will come to town too.
If the new GM and Head Coach are smart, they will find a way to retain the services of Alex Smith on their roster, if for no other reason than as a back-up quarterback. David Carr surely will be let go. Troy Smith? Exciting at times, reckless at other times and most likely too short to be a successful pocket passer in the NFL. Nate Davis? even Mike Singletary who seemed to like taking on special player challenges had concerns about him.
There is only one quarterback on the current 49ers roster worth keeping and that is Alex Smith. Clearly the 49ers need to look to free agency for someone to compete for the starting job and they also must draft a young prospect quarterback in the first, second or third round this year but Alex Smith should be retained.
So, before you all throw Alex Smith to the wolves and clamor for the acquisition of Donavan McNabb, Kyle Orton or some other would-be savior of the 49ers, lets take a look at the cold hard facts when it comes to quarterbacks who could come to San Francisco in the off-season.
In this article, we will also take a look at some promising free agents who are likely under the radar of most 49er fans. Keep in mind, many of the quarterbacks you may covet are NOT unrestricted free agents and given that good quarterbacks are hard to come by in the NFL, few teams are willing to just outright release anyone from their roster.
Is Donavan McNabb Much Better than Alex Smith?
Donavan McNabb is the hot name among many 49er fans this year. Traded by the Eagles to the Redskins and benched by the Redskins in the final weeks of the season, McNabb could possibly be available to the 49ers if cut or traded by the Redskins.
Did you know that in some respects, Alex Smith actually had a better 2010 season than Donavan McNabb?
That's right. Donavan McNabb, who played in 13 games to Alex Smith's 10 so far, had a lower quarterback rating than Alex Smith (77.1 to Alex Smith's 79.7) and had a lower completion percentage than Alex Smith as well (58.3 to Alex Smith's 60.4). Donavan McNabb also threw one more interception than he threw touchdowns.
Okay, okay. I realize that a statistician could argue that Alex Smith and Donavan McNabb are basically the same statistically in the passing category with the exception of total yardage and yards per game which McNabb is better at.
To be fair, McNabb is also a more accomplished scrambler than Smith for sure. Also, McNabb is only 34 and many quarterbacks only begin to become superstars in the later years of the careers but keep in mind that Alex Smith is still in his twenties and has tremendous upside over time whereas McNabb is in the latter part of his career.
My point is: Donavan McNabb is NOT all that much better than Alex Smith statistically and has now been traded by the Eagles and benched by the Redskins. Two teams have given up on McNabb. What makes 49er fans think he can be their savior? Desperation is what I think.
If we go back to last season (2009), Alex Smith had basically the same completion percentage as McNabb and threw for almost as many touchdowns and interceptions as McNabb (in three less games played than McNabb).
If you take the emotion out of the argument folks, McNabb does not appear to be head and shoulders above Alex Smith as a quarterback for the 49ers.
Could Matt Hasselbeck have potential in San Francisco?
Matt Hasselbeck has had a bad year in Seattle. Beset by injuries, lacking a running game (gee sounds an awful lot like the situation in San Francisco), Matt Hasselbeck completed about the same percent of his passes as Alex Smith but threw five more interceptions than he did touchdowns.
On paper, he had a far worse season than Alex Smith in 2010 and was worse than Alex Smith last season as well.
I don't personally believe Hasselbeck is washed up and ready for the trash heap. He has had great seasons in the past and has been plagued by injuries of late on a bad team.
He may still have some gas in the tank and has something to prove at that but on paper, he does not necessarily appear to be a better option than Alex Smith.
Ironically - if Seattle cuts Hasselbeck and the 49ers cut Smith, we will likely see Smith in a Seahawk uniform next fall.
I actually like Hasselbeck over McNabb myself, if for no other reason than I believe he would love to show up Pete Carroll if let go.
Dennis Dixon will be a Restricted Free Agent at the end of the season
Pittsburgh Steeler backup quarterback Dennis Dixon will be a restricted free agent at the end of his contract after this season.
I like Dixon's potential.
This past season, Dixon had a quarterback rating just under 80 and completed nearly 69 percent of his passes. He is raw, has not played a lot but has been a backup behind Ben Roethlisberger.
I believe the price would be too steep to try and acquire Dixon and he is likely no better than someone else the 49ers could draft in the first, second or third rounds.
Billy Volek of the San Diego Chargers may be the best unknown free agent out there
Billy Volek is considered one of the most reliable backups in the NFL. He is a free agent at the end of the 2010 season.
I like the fact that he has backed up one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Phillip Rivers.
I believe Volek may be another Michael Turner type player on the Chargers roster. Relegated to back up duty for years but capable of being a starter elsewhere.
The Price for Kyle Orton would be way too steep for the 49ers
With a new head coach coming to town, no one in his right mind will let Kyle Orton go unless there are high and multiple draft picks offered.
Sorry but in my opinion, Kyle Orton is just too inconsistent of a Quarterback to warrant the 49ers going "all in" (in Texas Hold 'Em poker parlance) for. Chicago gave up on him and if Denver is willing to give up on him too, I say the 49ers pass as well.
Coaching is the key
I don't think there is any magic quarterback out there, waiting to solve the 49ers problems overnight.
Unless there is something inherently wrong with Alex Smith's throwing mechanics or leadership abilities, I am not sure there are too many quarterbacks out there that would be "fair value" in comparison to Smith.
I am not an Alex Smith supporter in many ways. I believe he has had ample chances to prove himself but in fairness, the 49ers have been dysfunctional during Smith's entire tenure at quarterback.
I would love to see a solid head coach and quarterbacks coach work with Smith for one or maybe two more seasons before giving up on him.
Unless the 49ers end up with a Top 5 draft choice or a veteran free agent quarterback as the clear alternative, I would consider franchise tagging Smith and keeping him around for one more season.