Next Sunday’s game will be the defining moment of Alex Smith’s career. Everybody has a defining moment in their lives, and this will be his. A poorly played game, even in victory, will brand him as not the right stuff. A great game, even in defeat, will make him the hottest QB free agent in the league this coming off season.
Smith has never played a pro game with this much significance. He played great in Seattle last year, but the team kicked the game away to put a dagger in the 2009 playoff run. Later, he played lousy in Philadelphia in the official elimination game. Each of those games involved staying mathematically alive to pray for a Cardinals flop, rather than one win and you are on top and in control.
A bad showing Sunday will eliminate the 2010 Niners from playoff contention. A winning effort will put the team one Seattle loss from booking a trip to the playoffs. Unlike the Philadelphia game, the Rams are not a prohibitive favorite. The game is a fair challenge for Smith. And for the team. Mike Johnson has even had an extra three days to prepare a game plan.
Now that most of you have muttered “I’d rather put an even money bet down on the Cubs as 2011 World Series champions than risk a nickel on Alex Effing Smith,” let’s pause for a moment and put ourselves in Mike Singletary’s shoes. He’s the one whose NFL life is at stake, who is going to experience a defining moment in his coaching career, and that moment will be determined by Alex — the ultimate non-Bears type player. “Put your faith in God” has been Singletary’s life long credo, and now he’s putting his faith in Alexander Smith. Irony is dripping from his tear ducts as we very empathize.
Any game of this magnitude normally has fans on the edge of their seats. Not here, however. This game is a win-win situation and will be viewed with dispassionate curiosity. A win will be pleasant, but a loss will be the end of Smith and Singletary. Both acceptable outcomes. Or maybe this is a lose-lose game. A win does not cure the team’s ills, and a loss just puts an exclamation point on those ills.
My head hurts.
At the beginning of this season, most of the blogeroid belt imagined a brisk, methodical, confident trot to the playoffs as practically a sure thing. Hahaha. Strike One. The belt also agreed this would be the make or break year for Smith. That ball is still in play. It is not a soaring blast to deep center field, more like a dribbler up the third base line, but it IS still in play.
Ergo, I am pumped. Screw the football aspects. We’re talking Greek Theater here. Complexes and Odysseys and Achilles Heels. Death and destruction. Pillaging the villages. Or, perhaps more realistically, Death of a Salesman. Mike Singletary as Willy Loman. It works for me.
But center stage belongs to Smith this weekend. Why do I keep thinking of Robinson J. Peepers? It’s unnerving. I can’t help it. It does not work for me. But it won’t go away.