I was going to ease into this critical ogle-eye period by starting off with our kicker, Joe Nedney, looking at his advancing age and weakening leg. A guy whom you don’t replace until he proves he’s done. The fact that a guy like that could cost you a game or two when he finally does go sour because he’ll have to prove he’s through by clanking a whole bunch.
But even though a collapse by Nedney might be one of the more damaging events that could happen this year in terms of squandered games, it’s still a pretty wimpy opener. The first dinner for the roast-o-rama must have a choice chunk of meat on the table. Not some pepperoni snacks.
Ergo, we shall kick off our series on “What Could Go Wrong With This Team”, and prove that we mean business, by throwing Alex Smith under the bus, scraping his flattened carcass off the pavement, and sliding it under the microscope. Smith is likely the key player on the team that must stop with the “improving every year” mumbo jumbo and ARRIVE ALREADY!
That is essentially what the entire team must do this year. ARRIVE. And Smith symbolizes that need more than anyone on the team, at the position most in need of it. We cannot have another season ending press conference about our “positives” and our “progress.” The warranty for fan patience has expired. And no more so than on Alex Smith.
For me, what went on before 2005 is history. Garbage time. The ugly era. So all reference points here will begin with the 2005 season and what is now the current era. The era was begun by Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan, both of whom are now gone. But the people they brought here have stepped into their naked shoes, indicating either a stable and orderly franchise progression or a timid indifference to bold and sweeping changes. The 49ers mantra for the past five seasons has been a litany of “we’re improving, we’re getting there.” That has to end. Now. “There” must become “here”.
Smith marks the beginning of this current 49er era. He’s been on the team longer than anyone but Eric Heitmann, Shawntae Spencer, and Brian Jennings. He has a lot of positives and a history of success. He was 25-1 in high school and 20-1 in college, including two bowl game victories. His arm is more than adequate, his feet more than nimble, his heart more than stout. He’s led a few 4th quarter comeback victories and flubbed a few. He’s not particularly handsome, but he’s no ugly duckling, either. This all sounds just about like what is wrong with Smith. And that is DEFINITELY ANYTHING. He isn’t quite bad and he isn’t quite good.
There are a lot of QBs in the NFL like this. If they are on the right team, they can participate in a winning season. If they are not, they can participate in a losing season. What they don’t ever do is be the REASON for winning or losing. They don’t lift a team beyond the sum of its parts. If you have a QB like this, you might have a magical season like the Ravens of 2000 did, but you will not be a perennial contender, no matter how good the rest of your team is.
I’m not looking for Smith to be a HOF QB. That by itself does not guarantee being a winning QB. What he does need to be, what his team needs him to be, is consistent, reliable, and a leader. Game after game consistency, reliability, and leadership. He’s looked great and he’s looked awful, sometimes rolling out both looks in the same game. That has to cease and desist. Your team has to know what you are and whether they can count on you. Hope is not enough. Confidence is a must. Confidence built from been-there-done-that history.
I’ve been a Smith supporter and defender with great consistency (lol). However, whenever I have asked myself, “Would you put your money on the line and bet on Smith to succeed?”, the answer has always been no, I would not. I won’t even put my anonymous screen name on the line. That tells me that deep down I’m not yet convinced he can cut it. I haven’t seen IT yet. On the other hand, I wouldn’t bet on him failing, either. Which makes him a maddening fellow. A big fat question mark at the head of the table.
I’m sure of one thing here. It will be a great relief for 49er fans who support him and those who don’t to finally have the answer this year, one way or the other. We will finally get to see if Urban Meyer was prophetic or full of baloney. Meyer’s evaluation of Smith has been waiting five years for its true test. We have the same offensive system and WRs as last year. That has always been the last bastion of hope and support (some would say excuses) for Smith. Another win some, lose some effort this year will put both Meyer and Smith on the wagon to Boot Hill.
IOW, If several games come down to who makes the last play this year, and he doesn’t make a few, he’s done in these parts. Hopefully, he won’t take the team and coaching staff down with him and on out to the boarding platform on the train out of town.
In summation, if you are pinning your career and season on a guy like Alex Smith, there will no doubt be a scene from a movie that haunts your dreams: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?”