Alex Smith makes it to the other side

AP

Alex Smith is the oldest 27 year-old in the NFL.

In seven NFL seasons, he’s played with seven offensive coordinators, three head coaches, and 17 starting wide receivers. He’s been benched, booed, injured, and had his toughness questioned by two head coaches.

On Sunday, Smith will play for a chance to make the Super Bowl. He won’t ever be Joe Montana, but Smith deserves credit for making it to this moment. He survived.

My column this week for NBCSports.com looks at Smith’s six season slog through the mud in San Francisco and how he’s emerged this year.  He avoided becoming the next David Carr.

49 responses to “Alex Smith makes it to the other side

  1. It would be especially nice if they get someone in the off-season that can be a deep threat and actually catch the ball besides Vernon Davis. Getting Morgan back would at least help Alex’s efficiency although he’s not an explosive receiver

  2. Alex Smith has never gotten the coaching or played in the right system till this year. Steve Young when asked if AS could win a super bowl answered “yes” if he was in the right enviroment. It is clearly the year of the Niners!

  3. Alex probably wont ever live up to his 1st round selection but I always believed he had it in him to be a good QB. 49ers fans are a tough crowd to play behind, with over the top expectations, always expecting Alex to play like Montana and Young. Alex has played well the last 3 years, considering the coaches he played under. If you can play descent under Jimmy Raye and Mike Johnson, you have to be a pretty good QB. I think this season tells us what Alex can do. Under yet another OC, in a WCO that generally takes some time to gel and learn, with no real off season, its pretty remarkable to see such a big turnaround. Like I said he might never live up to his draft status but if he continues to play like he has, with even a marginal increase next season, this would be the best story ive heard in a long time.

  4. For 3-4 years it looked like the first round of the 2005 draft would be full of QB busts. And here we are, with Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith making it to the NFCC in consecutive years. Wild. And good for Smith.

  5. Fantastic article. Big props.

    I’ve always wondered why David Carr couldn’t hack it in Houston, especially with Gary Kubiak, the offensive guru he is, running the show.

    Was it confidence? not enough playmakers around him? Raw ability? Or just not enough heart?

  6. There will NEVER be another David Carr. Now, where did I put my special gloves? Time to do some needlework.

  7. Great piece, Gregg. The section “The Teammates” makes especially interesting reading.

    The Niners could seriously use at least one play-making WR as Crabtree just doesn’t look like that guy. With a true #1 WR, and the return of Josh Morgan, Alex Smith and that offense would be considerably more potent.

  8. Had David Carr not played being the worst O-line in history, his career may have been far different.

    Alex Smith story shows that both continuity and patience are important in the development of a quarterback.

  9. Call him a game manager if you like. That’s somewhat been his role this year. But there are clear signs and indications that the coaching staff is allowing him time to warm up to yet another new offense. Each game the cut him loose just a little bit more.

    I’m not completely sold just yet. I have seen some suspect series this year. And a few too many 3-and-outs to just completely hand him the keys. As it’s been said here PLEASE get him a burner on the outside and a good TE opposite Vernon. Also while I’m spending York’s money, can we shore up the O-Line too? If we loose on Sunday it will undoubtedly be because Alex will be spending a better half of the game on his back.

  10. Alex Smith is a great story and more evidence about how important it is where you end up. As much as I despise the Mannings for picking and choosing where they play as rookies, Alex Smith on the Niners makes me at least understand where they were coming from.

    How many promising QB’s end up on a team in complete dissarray like Smith and Niners, or a patchy line like David Carr and the Texans, or just being a plain crappy team like any QB and the Browns?

  11. forever8young says: Jan 20, 2012 5:11 PM

    “He wont ever be Joe Montana”

    And you know this how?

    __________________________________________

    It’s funny this was brought up. I heard an interview not long ago where the interviewer made a comment about “obviously Alex Smith will never be a Joe Montana or Steve Young”….. Joe’s response was along the lines of “Who are you to say he won’t, he’s still young yet has gone through every situation and imaginable. He is just now getting the coaching he has needed. He still lacks a true game breaking receiver. I believe we are only seeing the beginning” While I personally don’t think he will ever be on Montana’s or Young’s level. There have been some very good QB’s he still has the potential to match up with (Just read a very good comparative article with Troy Aikman, a Qb that didn’t have to constantly beat you with his arm because of Emmit Smith. A HOF QB who never threw for 4,000 yards who’s best overall year 1995, matches up almost identically to Alex Smith this season. Alex had 1 more TD 1 less INT). It’s up to Harbaugh to help get it out of him.

  12. I will give the guy credit and it really is a great story.

    But the best part about him turning it around is getting to hear all these clown 49er fans saying they knew all along and that all he needed was an OC for two seasons. These are the same fans who called radio stations and blasted this guy for how horrible he was and how he needed to be cut. They were pissed he was coming back for this season.

    Now….”We love Alex” signs all over the place and his greatness is the topic at many water coolers.

    Even though I find it ridiculous, I have to say I am really interested in how this story ends and actually find myself rooting for the guy.

  13. @ goldrush36:

    My point is that how many quarterbacks are on Joe’s level (Tom maybe)? It is fundamentally unfair to compare Alex, or any other QB for that matter, to 16. Why can’t Alex Smith just be the next Alex Smith? I read that Aikman article as well. Do you think Troy gives a damn about statistics after what he was able to accomplish?

  14. doitbigreggiemckenzie says: Jan 20, 2012 6:20 PM

    I will give the guy credit and it really is a great story.

    But the best part about him turning it around is getting to hear all these clown 49er fans saying they knew all along and that all he needed was an OC for two seasons. These are the same fans who called radio stations and blasted this guy for how horrible he was and how he needed to be cut. They were pissed he was coming back for this season.

    Now….”We love Alex” signs all over the place and his greatness is the topic at many water coolers.

    Even though I find it ridiculous, I have to say I am really interested in how this story ends and actually find myself rooting for the guy.
    =================================

    You make a valid point. Anybody who says they knew Alex would resurrect his career in year 7 is lying to your face. The guy was left for dead by everybody, myself included.

  15. As a Niners fan, I’m glad to see Smith finally coming around. He showed just enough to justify not bailing on him. However, the Niners still should have drafted Aaron Rodgers out of CAL over Smith. The Niners were enthralled with Smith’s flashy numbers in an Urban Meyer gimmick offense over the Jeff Tedford pro-style offense from under the center. Smith had never been under center and that really hurt him. Rodgers would have been abused his first couple years, but he’s absolutely the much much better QB.

  16. The most underrated quality Alex Smith has is his speed and agility- he’s a pure athlete. That has never come to fruition on his natural talent alone because he’s never had a consistent system to work with. I am intrigued to see where he goes from here now that he has a system and a direction to go forward with his natural ability.

    Ironically he’s reminiscent of both a young Montana and Young in the one thing he does very well: run. The naked bootleg he ran for the TD comes right out of the Walsh playbook. Where Smith can really take his game to the next level is by pushing the envelope like Young did to use the run when that’s all he’s got. Harbaugh is probably the first HC to encourage Alex to do that instead of an endless series of checkdowns. Walsh’s WCO had the critical component of being able to keep the D guessing run or pass, even in Montana’s heyday you still had to be constantly aware of the run.

  17. He may never be the next Montana or Young, but he’s the first Alex Smith. Let’s stop comparing him to everybody else and take the time to enjoy his story and watch the rest of it be written.

  18. So if they make the SB and NE makes the SB how much do you want to bet that Tom Brady takes out his frustration of his childhood team not drafting him… The 49ers drafted QB Carmazzi instead.

    Make em pay Tom… make em pay!

  19. This guy looks so much like Aaron Rodgers–at least with a hat on. Based on what he’s done in the post-season, it’s hard to understand why 9ers fans were so down on him. He’s walked an unusual path compared to the other three QBs in this weekend’s games. But adversity is a great teacher.

  20. forever8young says: Jan 20, 2012 6:30 PM

    @ goldrush36:

    My point is that how many quarterbacks are on Joe’s level (Tom maybe)? It is fundamentally unfair to compare Alex, or any other QB for that matter, to 16. Why can’t Alex Smith just be the next Alex Smith? I read that Aikman article as well. Do you think Troy gives a damn about statistics after what he was able to accomplish?

    _____________________________________________

    That is actually precisely my point. Joe himself believes the potential is there. You’re right, it is an unfair comparison. That isn’t what I was getting at. Noting the Aikman comparison is exactly what I am getting at. Aikman never really had a season better than Alex has this year, yet he wasn’t called a game manager. He also didn’t care about being the stat boy. All Alex cares about is wins, and that’s all that matters to me as well. Montana and Young left huge shoes to fill. Garcia “failed” because he tried to fill them. Alex is starting to succeed because he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about following in their footsteps, as long as the end result is the same. You never know when it’s all said and done “The next Alex Smith” could be an even better story than the ones we’ve seen or heard

  21. illinininer says: Jan 20, 2012 7:08 PM

    He may never be the next Montana or Young, but he’s the first Alex Smith. Let’s stop comparing him to everybody else and take the time to enjoy his story and watch the rest of it be written.

    —————————————————————

    Well said my friend. Took the words right outta my mouth.

  22. granadafan says: Jan 20, 2012 6:44 PM

    As a Niners fan, I’m glad to see Smith finally coming around. He showed just enough to justify not bailing on him. However, the Niners still should have drafted Aaron Rodgers out of CAL over Smith. The Niners were enthralled with Smith’s flashy numbers in an Urban Meyer gimmick offense over the Jeff Tedford pro-style offense from under the center. Smith had never been under center and that really hurt him. Rodgers would have been abused his first couple years, but he’s absolutely the much much better QB.

    ————————————————————-

    This is what I’m talking about. Smith has the Niners one win away from the big one and yet we’re sitting here talking about the coulda’s and the shoulda’s and the woulda’s. Live in the moment guys.

  23. I’ve enjoyed watching him excel this year. I have always rooted for him, and I think he got a raw deal with all the diff offensive coordinators and head coaches. I will admit that I was starting to lose faith that he would ever reach his potential, not for lack of trying but because of all the crap he went through with the OCs and Nolan. I think it was his second year in the league when they had norv turner when he really started to progress and I had high expectations. The one play that stood out to me from that year was that bootleg against Seatle where he faked out the entire Seahawks team and the tv cameras inn the td run. anyway. It’s nice to see Alex get some good press. Please stop with the game manager talk, anyone who has watched this season unfold for the niners has watched how Alex has evolved with this offense. Ask Drew Brees and the Saints if alex is still a game manager.

  24. Kudos to Smith for his perseverance. It says a lot about him that he organized lockout practices for the 49ers when he wasn’t even under contract, and it says a lot for him that the other players showed up when they didn’t even know if this guy would be their quarterback. You could tell how happy his teammates were for him while the end of that Saints game played out.

  25. i keep saying it about some of these QBs… been in every system, heard all the bs. got to play with talent free rosters. he wont be the only one who comes out of nowhere as a 5-10 year overnight sensation.

    smith played great vs NO. but that play call was classic. that’s a payton type of play call.

    some times ya have to call certain plays in certain ways… and suck that D in. then spank them. the saints had no clue. then they couldnt hold the lead again after that.

    williams had to leave town. he cant coach those guys anymore. they did it his way the last 2 playoff games. and it didnt work. not close.

  26. Yeah, Alex Smith has gotten off to a rough start, but I don’t necessarily think that’s his fault. He seems to be getting better now that he’s got good coaching, so if that keeps up, he very well could turn into a Joe Montana. He’s not that old. I see no reason to suspect that Jim Harbaugh won’t continue winning any time soon, so if they can actually improve the other areas of the team, then that will help make him better as well. Not to mention the confidence he is gaining.

    I’d probably say the same about Joe Flacco. Cam Cameron as QB coach is a joke. He had something with Zorn, but for whatever reason, somebody thought better.

  27. one good year and this guy is a franchiser? give me a break, 49’ers had all those high draft picks and now their starting to bloom, if were gonna chant a name, it better be Vernon Davis!!

  28. I have to admit if A Smith pulls it off and win it all – i might get a bit teary eyed…makes for a future hollywood movie…

  29. No one is paying attention to how he is about to be a free agent. If he doesn’t finish with a very poor performance he will be in line to get Jay Cutler / Matt Ryan / Phillip Rivers type money. The 49ers have no leverage as is integral to their resurgence and the QB franchise tag is so high dollar.

  30. goldrush36 says:Jan 20, 2012 4:22 PM

    It would be especially nice if they get someone in the off-season that can be a deep threat and actually catch the ball besides Vernon Davis. Getting Morgan back would at least help Alex’s efficiency although he’s not an explosive receiver

    I am so glad I’m not the only 49er fan to see this. He still, after all these years, has never had a full season out of a quality WR. It’s been almost nothing but scrubs, schlubs and retreads with no tread…

    And, like you, I also like Morgan. He’s been the only WR to play at a starting, deep-threat/complete package NFL WR level since Smith became the 49ers QB. Though I will say before his knees gave out, Battle was a great short/slot WR. He could really catch the short-area stuff with reliablity, even though he was going to take a beating.

  31. fu7ur3pr00f says:Jan 20, 2012 4:42 PM

    Fantastic article. Big props.

    I’ve always wondered why David Carr couldn’t hack it in Houston, especially with Gary Kubiak, the offensive guru he is, running the show.

    Was it confidence? not enough playmakers around him? Raw ability? Or just not enough heart?

    He had a slow release, a lot like Bledsoe. So he took a huge pounding. And, eventually, it looked like he got the NFL equivalent of shell shock which lead to him spending too much of his time looking at the pass rush, not down field.

  32. Really. Stop doggin this guy. The Franchise and the Coach saw enough in him to hang on. He has played great in his SYSTEM! Everyone else on here is just bitter. Im a Bills fan and i wish him nothing but the best.

  33. fu7ur3pr00f says:

    I’ve always wondered why David Carr couldn’t hack it in Houston, especially with Gary Kubiak, the offensive guru he is, running the show.

    Was it confidence? not enough playmakers around him? Raw ability? Or just not enough heart?
    —————————————————–

    You have to remember that Carr was playing for a brand new organization that had no depth on the roster. And as someone else mentioned the O-Line was terrible to begin with. If I recall there is only 1 person on the O-Line that was there the first year. So Carr got sacked Alot! However, when the line did begin to improve the damage had been done. Carr shut down at the slightest hint of pressure after that. As a rookie he was never able to make that College-to-Pro transition. His nerves were fried. I haven’t really seen anything in his play elsewhere to show that has changed. Though I certainly don’t see him often in the Houston broadcast market.

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