Tag Archives: alex smith

Going Up / Going Down: Alex Smith vs. Jamarcus Russell

This offseason, the other two California football teams will have many different decisions to make, but the most important one will be the same. Do we give our former #1 pick another year to become the franchise QB we need, or is it time to cut ties and move in a new direction? The 49ers and Raiders each had a number one draft pick within a three year span. They both took potential franchise quarterbacks, but neither has panned out to this point. Though there are plenty of pros and cons for both dilemmas, I think the answers are pretty simple. One is favorable and one is not. Let’s take a look at how both QBs got to the point they’re at, and the potential outcomes moving forward.

2005: The 49ers were coming off a 2-14 season and held the first overall pick. There was plenty of talent available, but SF’s biggest need was at Quarterback. The choice came down to Alex Smith or Aaron Rodgers. In the end, Smith was heralded as the better athlete, and more intelligent. Now, for every Ronnie Brown, Braylon Edwards, or Demarcus Ware they passed on, there was also a Cedric Benson, Pacman Jones, or Mike Williams that would’ve been worse. But, since Rodgers was the only other guy they were going to pick, he’s the only one it’s fair to compare with. To this point, Rodgers has thrown for more yards and touchdowns on less attempts than Smith, while throwing less interceptions as well. Smith got off to a rough start in his first year, throwing 1 TD pass to 11 interceptions. In 2006, he looked to be coming into form, completing 58% of his passes and connecting on 16 TD passes to 16 INTs. Last season was derailed by a shoulder injury, however, and when he came back this season, Shaun Hill had beat him out for the starting job. Smith, however, replaced Hill in Week 7, and had an up and down final 11 games to end the season. He finished with his best ever TD to INT ratio at 18:12. He also completed over 60% of his passes. The problem, though, is he still has yet to live up to his potential, and the 49ers are left to question whether he ever will. I can’t say with confidence that he will, but the chances are much better than his Oakland counterpart. Smith’s shoulder probably still caused him some discomfort early this season, but he should be back to full strength by now. The reason I see him getting better is his intelligence. While there certainly are exceptions based on physical gifts, the best QBs, like starting pitchers in baseball, are the smart ones who figure out the game and learn to play within it. I think Alex Smith can only get better the more he plays.

2007: The Raiders were coming off a 2-14 season of their own and held the first pick also. Also in need of a franchise QB, Al Davis couldn’t resist the size of LSU’s Jamarcus Russell, and despite new Head Coach, Lane Kiffin’s objections, selected him with the #1 overall pick. While I never really questioned the Niners’ selection of Alex Smith, I knew this one was doomed from the start. We all knew Russell could throw a ball across the Bay from his knees, but how does that translate to playing QB in the NFL? What he made up for in physical tools, he lacked in the mental department. Three seasons later, he has alienated himself from teammates and fans, something that’s hard to do in Oakland. The combination of bonehead plays, lack of accountability and complete lack of pocket presence has lead many to question his future as this team’s quarterback. He was given the keys to the franchise this year and repeatedly drove the wagon off a cliff, with an untimely interception, sack, or fumble. In his three year career, he’s completed just 52% of his passes for a lowly 65.2 QB rating. He’s also thrown just 18 TD passes to 23 INTs. Those numbers would all surely be lower if 90% of his passes weren’t dump off passes to backs. When he was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski this year, the rest of the team clearly elevated their level of play. It looked as if they felt they had a much better chance with anyone other than Russell out there. Now, whenever Russell gets into the game, it’s the result of an injury to another QB, and he is inevitably greeted with boos from the Raider Nation. Russell has shown no signs of getting better, and even worse, his drive and desire to get better have been called into question far too often. The Raiders need to make a decision, but if I know Al Davis, Tom Cable will be far more likely to be shown the door. My only hope is that the Raiders at least pick up a new QB who could challenge, and ultimately beat out Russell for the starting spot.


Observations From Week 8

Week 8 in the NFL may as well have been called Brett Favre week. With league sweetheart teams like the Steelers and Patriots off, all the bright lights were on Brett Favre as he was set to make his return to Lambeau as a member of the rival Vikings.  However, much to the surprise of many, it ended up being just another football game.  The Green Bay fans rode Favre all game long, showering him with hearty helping of boos from whistle to whistle.  Beyond that, however, it took the form of a typical division showdown.  The Vikings were out to prove their supremacy in the NFC North, and Packers had their sights on knocking off the team with the lead.  In the end, the Vikings won the game and took a huge step forward in the division race.  Here are some other things I learned this week….

The Eagles are better than we all think. They’ve flown under the radar thanks to a mediocre record against a very weak schedule.  Their only good opponent, New Orleans, beat them handily, and their other loss came at the hands of the Raiders. If the NFL had a BCS-style ranking system, that loss alone would’ve dropped the Eagles out of the top 25 altogether. BUT, if you take away those two games, they’ve handled their competition, albeit weaker competition, to the tune of double digit margins of victory. They got their first true test today, and dominated the Giants 40-17. Philadelphia’s remaining schedule is anything but easy, so we’ll see if their for real soon.

Alex Smith is better than Shaun Hill. Of course, Joey Harrington is better than Ryan Leaf, fender benders are better than 16 car pileups, and HIV is better than AIDS… so that’s not saying much.  However, it was debated going into this week. Today, Alex Smith proved he belongs as the 49ers starter moving forward. He wasn’t great, but he played mostly mistake free – his one interception was a tipped pass – and had a presence in the pocket that Hill did not.  The 49ers still have other issues to address, though, namely holding on to leads in the 4th quarter.

Steve Slaton just crushed a lot of fantasy dreams. Coming off a strong year, Steve Slaton had worked his way into the late first / early second round of fantasy draft boards. He has struggled thus far, but has had a few bright spots. Well, today all that came crashing down, as Slaton had one “carry” for a yard before coughing it up, getting benched, and watching his replacement run for 126 yds and 3 TDs.

Jamarcus Russell is who we thought he was. Pardon the overused cliché, but it’s true. Each week, critics are intrigued by how Jamarcus Russell will respond from one week to the next. It’s finally clear that he doesn’t.  He plays the SAME GAME week in and week out. He completes one of every three checkdown passes, he otherthrows his receivers wildly on the few long balls he attempts, and most of the time, he holds the ball too long, dances around in the pocket, and gets sacked, fumbles, or forces a throw which results in a pick. Watching Jamarcus Russell is like watching the Bill Murray classic, “Groundhog Day.” Only problem is, I know what happens in “Groundhog Day” so I at least don’t watch it anymore. Hopefully next weekend when the Raiders are on I’ll remember that I’ve seen this already.

There won’t be any 0-16 teams this year……. OR WILL THERE??? St. Louis and Tennessee both got off the hook today with wins. The Rams benefited from playing last year’s big winner’s, the Lions, who, in a great show of sportsmanship, elected to lay down for their opponents since they already had their win for the season. The Titans, on the other hand, opted for a little strategy called “shut down everyone on the Jaguars except Maurice Jones-Drew,” and it worked. Chris Johnson ran for 224 yds and 2 TDs to lead the old Oilers to victory. That leaves idle Tampa Bay (0-7) as the only remaining team without a win. Their remaining schedule is no cake walk either, but they two winnable games on the docket. The Bucs should be able to manage a win against either Carolina or Seattle. If they don’t, their best hope would be to play a New Orleans or Atlanta team that has clinched a playoff spot and thus resting their starters in either of the last two weeks of the season.

Fans in Tampa stick around in a show of support after the Buccaneers were defeated by the South Florida Bulls, 27-6


49ers Quarterback Controversy

As my favorite football saying goes…. If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.

Such is the situation for the San Francisco 49ers.  Now, first off, let me just disclose the fact that I really couldn’t care less who Singletary names the starter.  I’m not much of a Niners fan, but when you live in Northern California, you take what you can get in terms of winning teams.  The 49ers sit at 3-3 after losing two in a row.  They’re a game back of division leading Arizona.  So, that creates an interesting situation for the team as they decide which direction to go.  The sentiment coming from SF fans is simply, Alex Smith played better than Shaun Hill, so he should be the starter.  You can’t argue that, but you can argue that he came into the game down 21-0 when the pressure was off.  Houston’s defensive gameplan also goes out the window as they most likely spent their week preparing for Hill.  One Houston defender even went on to say he didn’t even know who #11 was!

Now, simple logic states that you go with whoever gives you the best chance to win the football game.  But, the 49ers travel to Indianapolis to play the Colts next week, so they probably don’t have a chance regardless of who’s dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodging lineman in the collapsed pocket all day.  Therefore, here’s hoping the Niners go with Smith to finish out the season.  They’re still paying him a ton of money, and they owe it one more shot to see if he can salvage his career and be the starting QB they picked him to be.  No word on whether Coach Singletary plans to announce who the starter will be in today’s press conference yet, but it’ll be interesting to see how they handle it.

UPDATE: Mike Singletary did, in fact, name Alex Smith the starter for this Sunday.


Crabtreetment

The San Francisco 49ers were blessed with one of the easiest, no-brainer draft decisions when Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree fell in their laps at the 10th slot.  Problem is, in Crabtree’s mind, it didn’t happen that way.  He was the highest rated WR in the draft, so he should be paid like one.  If you haven’t heard the story, here’s Niners Nation’s in-depth account.

Michael Crabtree is continuing the much-maligned tradition of rookies holding out in training camp in attempt to earn more money despite the fact that they have never taken an NFL snap.  I often wonder how fans ever forgive these players after pulling such shenanigans.  The Oakland Raiders had to deal with this recently with Jamarcus Russell, and now, the nightmare has shifted across the Bay to Santa Clara / San Francisco where what the Niners once thought was a gift, has now turned into a disaster.  While I’d like to root for the 49ers to hold a firm position, they don’t have much leverage here.  Gaining much publicity this year in Niners camp is Alex Smith’s attempt to reclaim the starting spot that he should’ve been holding down for the last two full seasons.  The concequence is a constant reminder of the franchise’s shortcomings in the draft which they held the #1 overall pick.  It wasn’t considered by anyone to be a deep draft, but with #24 pick Aaron Rodgers succeeding Brett Favre in Green Bay, the scarlet and gold are publicly relegated to the short end of the stick.  So, with the Alex Smith debacle playing in the background, the Michael Crabtree situation makes things that much more urgent.  No one expects him to be a superstar, but at the same time, he’s as close to a sure-fire WR prospect as we’ve seen in the last few years.  Adding to the burden is the lack of the depth at the wideout spot.  Sure, there are a handful of capable receivers on the roster, but Brandon Jones, Isaac Bruce, and Josh Morgan doesn’t exactly have playoff receiving corps written on it.  Crabtree, unfortunately, is needed.

Douchebag

Douchebag

I will give that the 49ers fan base is a faithful one.  The franchise has been driven into the ground over the course of the last decade by the York family, but the fan support has been unwavering.  SF fans are dying to clutch on to a franchise player and cheer on his every move.  The problem is, they can’t find anyone to fill that role.  Alex Smith has blown his chances, Vernon Davis was practically handed the badge of fan-favorite, but has failed repeatedly to win over the faithful.  Frank Gore and Patrick Willis have helped carry the torch, but for a fan base who has grown up with Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, who didn’t start to wear on nerves until he had actually earned his stripes, Crabtree is in a unique position to be the man for years to come with one of the most storied NFL franchises.  However, because the franchise is what it is, I don’t believe they should bend for Crabtree.  Let him walk.  This move on his part only is a preview of what is to come throughout his career.  Though it may be a PR nightmare for the time being, time will ultimately prove it to be the right decision.  Let’s face it, Crabtree isn’t worthy of lining up on the same hash mark as the great Jerry Rice.  He belongs somewhere like Kansas City or Minnesota anyway.

Anybody know the logistics of whether SF could work out a Crabtree for Boldin swap with the Cardinals?