San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has seen his fair share of ups and downs since being the National Football League‘s first overall draft pick in 2005. San Fran’s top decision at that time was between Smith and current Packers QB, Aaron Rodgers. That alone is a tough comparison for Smith but, while Rodgers had the chance to sit and learn for a few years before stepping into a talented offense, Smith was pressed into action as a rookie on a bad team.
Fast forward a few years and it’s Smith that has his team on the brink of the Super Bowl. After struggling through a few injury plagued seasons, he played in all 16 games for only the 2nd time in his 7 years. His career year is attributed not only to health, but to the guidance and coaching of new San Fran head coach, Jim Harbaugh. A former league QB, Harbaugh was able to maximize the potential in Smith by actually coaching him. Smith was stuck with defensive minded coaches during his first 6 years in the NFL, and Harbaugh brings a fresh offensive perspective to his team.
Under Harbaugh, Smith is still asked to play the ‘game manager’ role, as the Niners have a solid running game and a great defense. In 2011, he lead five 4th quarter comeback wins. Plus, his TD/Int ratio was better than any of Joe Montana‘s years.
Speaking of Joe Montana; he was asked a couple years ago by then 49ers coach Mike Singletary to take a look at Smith’s play. What he saw was very telling.
From CBS Sports:
“I made it through about midway through the fourth series of the first game [tape] before I couldn’t take it anymore and I called [Alex] and told him ‘Dude, your offense sucks,’” Montana recounted. “It was third and 8 and there was no place for him to go with the football.”
Montana went on to explain that even he could not have found consistent success in the offense Smith was operating.
Playing on a 1 year deal, the free agent to be is in line to get the franchise deal that should keep him the Bay area for the next few years. When you look at the 49ers’ franchise quarterbacks, he’s in good company, but he has plenty of work to do to before taking his place with those names. However, if he keeps playing like he did in his playoff debut, he just might get there.