Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gun Shy Alex Smith

As 49ers fans come crashing back to earth following their teams heartbreaking 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game, it's time to start looking towards the future.  Save a few free agents to be locked down on the defensive side of the ball, most notably Dashon Goldson and Carlos Rogers, keeping opponents from scoring shouldn't be a huge issue next season.  The most glaring deficiencies for the 49ers lie on the offensive side of the ball.
We all know about the disappearing act that the 49ers wide receivers pulled off in the playoffs.  Vernon Davis took his game to another level in his two playoff appearances.  A completely healthy Delanie Walker would have helped the 49ers offense by providing Alex Smith with another capable receiving threat, and it would have made for a wide open playbook.  We can only guess what Josh Morgan would have provided for the offense had he not broken his leg in the 49ers bludgeoning of the Buccaneers.  When your top three wide receivers are Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams and Brett Swain, you're bound to have some problems in the passing game.
But even if the 49ers didn't have a receiver who found himself open as often as, say, Victor Cruz, some of the blame regarding offensive anemia must fall on Alex Smith.  He was nearly perfect this year when it came to limiting mistakes, throwing a league-low 5 interceptions, but at the same time, he was below average in regards to yards and touchdowns.
Michael Crabtree complained to the media following the loss to the Giants about times when he was open and Alex didn't get him the ball.  I'll address my thoughts on Crabtree's persona in a later blog, but for now I'll acknowledge that he's absolutely right.  Alex has been ridiculously gun shy all season, avoiding throws unless he was absolutely sure that he would not throw a pick.  When receivers ran sideline routes, he would favor the sideline to such an extent that receivers would have to be five yards out of bounds in order to even lay hands on the ball.  He is a quarterback that must fully trust his receivers in order to throw certain passes, and while he displayed that trust with Vernon, he proved that he did not trust his wide receiving corps on Sunday.
A few things are certain - Alex Smith will be back next year and the 49ers will try to bolster their receiving corps in the off season.  If I had to venture a guess, they will resign Josh Morgan because of his physical abilities and his experience with Alex.  What they will do with Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams is anyone's guess.  Even to the casual observer, it's clear that the 49ers passing game must be more explosive than what it was in 2011.  But if Alex wants to build upon his turn around season next year, he has to pull the trigger on tough throws more often.  All the best quarterbacks in the NFL, from Aaron Rodgers to Drew Brees and Eli Manning, make mistakes en route to huge passing numbers.  A quarterback must trust his receivers to catch the ball more than he trusts his punter to win the field position battle.  He must trust himself to make the tough throw more than he trusts his defense to hold.  To succeed in the NFL, you have to be bold and take risks when it counts, and if Alex isn't willing to do that, the 49ers will fall short of the ultimate goal once again.


  1. Well put. My thoughts are so jumbled I can't comprehend my true feelings. Part of me wants to blame the WRs, the other Alex. I hope we draft Alshon Jeffery. BEAST

  2. Blame should be spread out even across WR, Alex, special teams and play calling. In Baalke we trust. Hell take the best talent possible at the 30th overall pick, and it should be a big strong wide receiver

  3. This is why the 49er fanbse has become a serious joke! They have trash Alex Smith for years and now even after the years of torment and insults, he leads the team The NFC champonship game. Now you continue to trash him even though has has never had a #1 receiver in his entire career...I'm a die hard niner fan but thh fanbase has NO CREDIBILTY at ALL!

  4. Thanks for the response Kay. I think your misinterpreting what my article was saying. I wasn't trashing him, although I have in the past - I've said every bad thing you could possibly say about Alex. He had a great season, his best yet for sure. I am grateful for the moment that he gave me versus the saints - it was the happiest in my sports fanhood. All I am saying is that Alex will need to pull the trigger if this offense is going to progress. He's a smart quarterback and he has some physical abilities for sure - He's mobile and he can dart a ball if he FEELS COMFORTABLE doing it. My point is that he needs to step out of his comfort zone. Alex's main issue is a lack of belief in himself. He harnessed a belief in himself the moment he threw that touchdown to vernon in the Saints game, but he relapsed to old Alex through the entire Giants game. He needs to take risks. Our team will survive despite turnovers, but we need to put more points on the board.