Alex Smith: 10 Reasons the San Francisco 49ers Won't Rule Him Out
The last truly good, well-coached team that Alex Smith played for was at the University of Utah. Smith was successful enough for the Utes to become the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
Harbaugh is a former NFL quarterback. He's proven himself a builder of quarterbacks at two college coaching jobs, mentoring Tampa Bay Bucs reserve QB Josh Johnson at San Diego and Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck at Stanford.
Harbaugh knows a great deal more about quarterbacks and quarterbacking than the most outraged and vocal 49ers season-ticket holder. Harbaugh knows more about choosing a quarterback than the most acerbic NFL analyst yapping or pounding a keyboard.
Harbaugh sees past Smith's failures to imagine that the passer can be a winner in the NFL.
For some reason, though, Harbaugh's belief that Smith might still have a productive career doesn't convince 49ers fans that...Smith might still have a productive career.
Those fans know, darn it! They've seen Smith play from the upper deck at Candlestick Park, maybe from the comfort of their living room sofa—on TiVo!
The media types, man, they've talked to...people. They don't care if Harbaugh was an NFL quarterback, a winner at the University of Michigan and a proven quarterback coach. The media folks talked to scouts who heard from players that a trainer said that a former 49ers coach told a guy who was a beat writer that Smith, er...hey, they just know Smith's never going to make it—no matter that Harbaugh might believe otherwise.
If Harbaugh believes that Smith still might be a productive NFL quarterback—then, Smith could well still become a productive NFL quarterback.
NFL MVP Brodie Was Considered a Bust, Too
Memories grow blurred over time, but John Brodie came out of Stanford in 1957 and floundered in San Francisco. After four seasons, Brodie was considered a flop—a bust.
Then, he began to turn his career around and eventually became one of the best in the NFL. Brodie was voted the Most Valuable Player in the NFL in 1970—14 years after fans and the media determined he was an NFL failure.
Nolan's Mistake Takes Time To Rectify
Head coach Mike Nolan knew Smith had a lot to learn, but drafted him anyway.
Smith has spent his career trying to make up for the mistake former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan made in choosing Smith, a passer out of Utah's spread offense, over proven pocket-passer Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 NFL draft.
The 49ers didn't take Rodgers out of Cal after he'd sparkled taking snaps from under center. Nolan grabbed Smith and immediately announced that the quarterback would...have to learn to take snaps from under center and all the requisite footwork that comes with being a drop-back passer.
It could be that Harbaugh believes Smith is still learning.
Learning Curve Was/Is Steep for NFL QBs
Surprise! Smith had a great deal more to learn than most about learning to play quarterback.
Fans and media types can't say for certain that Smith—a gifted athlete and intelligent man—hasn't suffered from being expected to learn too much and too quickly from ill-equipped coaches.
Experience Eventually Pays off
Shaun Hill, 13, was a career journeyman who outplayed Smith briefly for what proved to be losing 49ers' teams.
Smith's a flop? He'll never get any better?
Remember quarterbacks who somehow won the hearts of 49ers fans like J.T. O'Sullivan and Shaun Hill? They briefly showed that even a completely unheralded passer can suddenly emerge as a winner—even if terrible 49ers teams did eventually need more than Hill, O'Sullivan, Troy Smith and others could provide.
He Who Has Much to Learn, Needs a Good Teacher
Alex Smith was a pretty good NFL quarterback when Norv Turner was with the 49ers.
The 49ers ownership stumbled into gifted offensive coordinator Norv Turner when he lost his job as the Oakland Raiders head coach. In his second season, Smith threw for 16 touchdown passes and 2,890 yards under Turner's tutelage.
Then, Turner left to take the top job in San Diego. Since then, Smith hasn't played for a proven offensive coordinator with the skills to mentor a quarterback.
No...He Needs a Good Teacher!
Jimmy Raye took the job as 49ers' offensive coordinator after Smith suffered a shoulder injury.
Stories about Smith's growth being stunted by lack of proper coaching have to be taken seriously.
Head coach Mike Singletary couldn't get anyone to accept the offensive coordinator's job. So, the 49ers had to settle for the conservative head coach's last choice—Jimmy Raye. Raye eventually lost his job early in the 2010 season when Smith and others could be seen on the field, play clock running, waiting as Raye moved unmercifully slowly to send in a play.
Stuff like that can hurt a quarterback.
The 49ers Have Been a Mess since Smith Arrived
Mike Martz, left, orchestrated a high-powered pass attack with the St. Louis Rams.
Some will mention that Mike Martz had great success running a pass-oriented offense for the St. Louis Rams, but that he couldn't get what he needed from Alex Smith. It should be mentioned that Martz forced J.T. O'Sullivan into the starting job simply because he knew Martz and the offense from previously playing in it.
Martz might know the passing game, but he wasn't the mentor that Smith needed. O'Sullivan eventually floundered and Smith drew fans' ire for failing when thrust back into action.
Smith Had Help Losing, Would Have Help Winning Now
Media analysts and fans often forget that there are 49ers assigned to block onrushing defenders who battered Alex Smith.
Look, Alex Smith hasn't played for what could be considered even an average NFL team.
The 49ers offensive lines have been brutal, then battered and injury-ridden. While they added tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree, the club stuck to a run-first attack featuring Frank Gore.
After selecting two offensive linemen in the first round of the 2010 draft, however, the 49ers might be ready to turn the corner under Harbaugh, who has proven in college that his approach can feature a bullish ground game and versatile pass attack.
The Guy with All the Muscles Who Plays Tight End Backed Smith
When Mike Singletary benched Alex Smith during a game in 2010, tight end Vernon Davis sided with Smith and insisted he had to play.
If nothing else matters, consider that tight end Vernon Davis supported Alex Smith in a late-season dispute with head coach Mike Singletary. Singletary benched Smith. Davis got mad and insisted that Smith return to the game.
Don't think Smith can play quarterback? Take it up with Vernon Davis.
Smith Took the Heat, Maybe It Readied Him?
chMike Singletary crushed Alex Smith during his tenure as head coach.
Mike Singletary was arguably the worst man in the worst spot for a franchise desperately trying to salvage the career of a young quarterback. Alex Smith, however, did stand up to the loud, dictatorial sideline antics from Singletary.
There's something to be said for a guy who stands up to—and survives—a clash of wills with Mike Singletary.
Consider the Alternatives
Marc Bulger is a potential player in the 49ers' quarterback sweepstakes.
While Smith remains a talented athlete who has survived tough times in San Francisco, some will never accept him as the 49ers quarterback. Those who refuse to let Harbaugh consider Smith and do his job forget the alternatives.