Naturally, I’m stuck at school writing an essay I don’t actually care about. So what do I do when I go on break? I look up news. Er, sorta. I kinda bounce all over the place. And of course, I wind up looking up the latest NFL news. I had to write this somewhere, so here I am.
The choice has been made – Colin Kaepernick has again been named the starting quarterback for the 49ers this week. QB Alex Smith is perfectly healthy and has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has left the door wide open in terms of the future and who will continue to start, but I personally think that’s more to create the illusion that they’re giving a fair chance to both quarterbacks.
Now, Smith hasn’t done anything to lose his job. That’s a fact. But let’s be real here, everybody has seen what he has been able to offer for the last seven or so years. Sure, he had a lot of coaches come and go and Jim Harbaugh has been his first solid and stable coach in a long time. I just really think he had one good year and that’s about all. Alex Smith will forever be a game-managing quarterback like Trent Dilfer to me. The thing I like about him is that he is being honest about his demotion – he told the media that “it sucks”. He isn’t taking it laying down, but he isn’t causing a scene either. I like that.
In the end, Colin Kaepernick is the more dynamic threat. Maybe the 49ers head office was tired of seeing Alex play the way he usually does and finally assembled a good team around him. What did that lead to? The NFC Championship game. Who won that game? The New York Giants. That game was the 49ers to lose and they definitely lost it. It wasn’t entirely Alex Smith’s fault (yeah Kyle Williams, I’m talking about you), but too often he made short passes instead of really taking any shots down the field. When a defense knows that you wouldn’t dare throw deep, they can focus on keeping the first level and underneath coverage tight with maybe one guy covering the deep zones of the field. This was the case during the NFC Championship game and the Giants capitalized (they would go on to win the game and eventually the Super Bowl thereafter). At least Kaepernick makes use of the new weapons the 49ers have acquired since that game. WR Randy Moss is respected and known as one of the all-time great deep receiving threats to have put on pads. When he isn’t involved in an offense, he is notorious for becoming complacent and even immature (look up his tenure with the Raiders, Titans and second stint with the Vikings). WR Michael Crabtree was once deemed a diva, but has actually been pretty productive for the 49ers. Throwing it short to him is an okay idea, but he seems better suited running deeper routes rather than relying on him to constantly create yards after his catch. I won’t even mention Kyle Williams because I think that he needs to be given the boot by front office. A.J. Jekins and Mario Manningham (who helped the Giants to beat the 49ers last year in the NFC Championship) are both great underneath receivers but the latter is better suited on deeper routes. He’s got the speed to do it and has the body control and concentration to do it (look up his Super Bowl catch against the Patriots last year and you’ll see why I say that).
Now, this whole situation is proof of how important it is to build a good team. The current incarnation of the 49ers is one that revolves around a good defense and strong running game. Their offensive line is one that blocks well and run blocks even better. Once head office was able to put this team together and pulled in Jim Harbaugh to coach the them, Smith suddenly had a good year. Sure, he might complete 70% of his passes and have a passer rating of above 100 (highest rating possible is 153, I believe), but those are benchmarks of a game-managing quarterback with a strong run game behind him. And an awesome defense too.
This whole case sounds exactly like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. Trent Dilfer was the starting quarterback and had 2000-yard rusher Jamal Lewis behind him. Yeah, when’s the last time you saw a 2000-yard rusher in the NFL? Anyway, the Ravens also had their vaunted defense that was led by Ray Lewis in his prime.
Sidebar: The eerie part about all of this is that LB Patrick Willis moves and acts almost exactly like Ray Lewis does. Put their game tapes side by side and you’ll see. They even wear the same number.
Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs weren’t in the picture yet, but the Ravens were highly capable of stopping many offenses dead in their tracks. Trent’s only job was to make the right decisions (which were often check-downs) and to properly handle the ball during exchanges between himself, the center, and the running back/fullback. If you ever happen to look up any footage of former head coach Brian Billick during that Super Bowl game, you’ll see how often he wished that Trent would make the right decisions and handle the ball properly. Alex Smith and the current San Francisco 49ers remind me a lot of that 2000 Baltimore Ravens team.
Now, I’m not trying to insult Alex Smith. He’s in the NFL and I’m not. That’s a huge accomplishment for any athlete. I respect that he’s been able to stay in the league for as long as he has and hope that he finds his peace somehow. I hear the Jets could use a quarterback…and so could the Cardinals…and so could Jacksonville…and Buffalo (well, not really)…
I know this isn’t well-structured, I was just writing whatever came to mind. Back I go to writing about collective bargaining rights!