Today’s topic is Patrick Willis. He’s great. He’s awesome. Everybody agrees.
Next up, the NFC West now has the 2010 (Sam Bradford), 2011 (Kevin Kolb), and 2012 (Matt Flynn) QB debutante darlings. And nobody’s darling, Alex Smith.
Looks like the 49ers have the short end of the beauty contest here. Fortunately, this is football, and we all know who is holding up the NFC West trophy for 2011.
Last year, Bradford was mostly regarded as the top QB in the West. He responded by missing six games of a 2-14 season, putting up a 70.5 QBR, and a 53.5% completion rate. Honk!
No matter, the division had Kolb! He was signed for mega-millions to lead the Cardinals back to the top. He responded with seven games on the bench and a 81.1 QBR with a 57.7% completion rate and fighting it out with John Skelton for the starting job. At season’s end, he was sitting in a railway station with a ticket for his destination when abruptly brought back and rewarded with a $7 million roster bonus. Honk!
Seattle had Tarvaris Jackson, who was lumped together with Smith as chump change. He responded appropriately with a 7-9 record, a 79.2 QBR, and a 60.2% completion rate. Mild applause. Smattering of boos.
This year Seattle borrowed a page from the Cardinals and signed a career backup with two NFL starts on his resume to mega-millions. He is expected to be the next Kevin Kolb that was supposed to be before he wasn’t. Audience sits patiently, arms folded in skepticism. One frizzed out electro shock survivor cheering wildly from outside the theater.
And then we have the 49ers very own Smith. He was expected to be relieved for general ineptitude about mid-season by Colin Kaepernick. Instead, he confounded all the experts by going 13-3, with a 90.7 QBR, and a 61.3% completion rate. Bravo! Ole! Right?
Oh, no. Not here.
And not anywhere else, either. Not even in the 49er front office that had delivered eight consecutive seasons of awful, playoffless years of football.
No, Smith’s success in 2011 was entirely the product of Jim Harbaugh. It was Harbaugh who threw 22 TDs against only 5 picks. It was Harbaugh who trotted out onto the field six times trailing in the fourth quarter and led the team to a winning score. It was Harbaugh who outdueled Drew Brees in the playoffs with two epic, franchise thundering fourth quarter TD drives that set off seismic tremors in the Bay Area.
So it is Harbaugh who gets the wild cheering. Smith just gets the Rodney Dangerfield vest.
Smith gets polite, reluctant clapping and a double-dog dare to prove he can do it again! Merely as Harbaugh’s functionary, mind you. Harbaugh’s virtual reality essence.
People who don’t follow football might read this and wonder, “What’s the deal here?”
The deal is that in the blogosphere, winning isn’t everything. Being right is all that matters. And not many were when it came to Smith. In fact, about the only one who was right about Smith was Jim Harbaugh.
At any rate, the 2012 season approaches on the far away horizon and Smith is once again expected to have too low a ceiling, to fail, to get replaced, to not be good enough. Smith has been upgraded slightly from He Stinks to He’s Just a Placeholder. So it will be Placeholder versus the Clementines this year in the NFC West.
Should Smith somehow prevail, you can be sure of one thing: the first topic of the 2013 offseason will be whether Smith should be released.