As we begin the offseason, it's a perfect time to look back at the players impact, development and future prospects. QB is as good a place to start as any, considering the QB is drafted or signed to be the field general who leads the team.
Alex Smith - 2006 stats: 74.8 QB Rating, 257-442(58.1%) 2,890 yards 16 TDs, 16 INT, 2 rushing TDs, 36 sacks
The Good: Smith improved by leaps and bounds this year as he improved himself in all areas of the game. He made more big plays, made fewer brutal mistakes and in general looked a little more like a #1 pick. He led the team to a huge win at Seattle as he showed the true potential he has, whether it be a flat-footed 50-yard bomb or his ability to scramble in the pocket.
Areas to Improve: While he has improved, Alex Smith still has much to learn before he can become the true leader of this team. I'm of the opinion that he still rolls out too much. In college he could do that in the spread offense because the defense was slower. However, the entire defense is fast and can track him down much easier. He has admitted he had never played in a pro-style pocket offense before being drafted so that is an area he will likely work on in the offseason.
Smith's grade is based as much on the imrpovement he showed as it is on the actual numbers put up on the field. Of course he was dreadful on 2005 and a 1/1 TD/INT ratio obviously will not cut it in the future. However, the way he has embraced the Norv Turner offense leaves me excited for the future. I'd love for Smith to turn into Joe Montana tomorrow, but that clearly won't happen because a) he's still one of the youngest guys on the roster and in the league and b) the 49ers just don't have enough offensive firepower. As this team adds more playmakers and Alex Smith gains a greater knowledge of the the game and his role, I think you'll see his game improve every week.
2006 Grade: B- (He showed dramatic improvement, but their is still plenty of room to improve)
Trent Dilfer - 2006 stats: A couple hand offs!
Trent Dilfer's season with the 49ers can be summed up by this article in the San Francisco Examiner. Trent Dilfer was brought in to be a mentor to Alex Smith and he did just that. Any article about Trent Dilfer discussed his role as a mentor and how he dove into that role with gusto. While he wasn't the on-field MVP of the team, I think he was as important off the field as anybody on the roster or on the coaching staff. It sounded almost cliched, but I think that makes it all the more amazing how seriously he took this role.
The future has some questions in regards to retaining Dilfer. He's done a great job as a mentor, but if Alex Smith were to get injured, is the Dilfer the guy we want coming in to play, considering how little he has played over the past year? I'm not sure about bringing a Jake Plummer type as I still think Dilfer's mentor role is important to Smith's continued development. I'm curious about everyone's thoughts on the backup/3rd string QB situation/
Grade: A+ (He was brought in to fill a role and he filled it better than ANYONE could have expected. Kudos to Trent for taking the job and running with it.)
Shaun Hill: Umm...yea...sooooo...Fear the Turtle, Shaun? Personally I would have loved to keep Cody Pickett just for the entertainment factor. A QB on special teams is the name of the game. There's really not a whole lot to be said about the 3rd string QB, but I figured I saw enough of him and his clipboard that I'd throw him in here. Gotta throw him a bone as it's entirely possible he's not back next year.