OMG, I can't believe what I saw today. Something great. Something that finally makes me really happy!!!
It's been tough being on Niners Nation and being so negative all the time -- calling for the removal of Alex Smith since late last year, then living through this mess of a year. At the same time calling for the firing of Jimmy Raye since last year. And then recently, sadly, concluding that Mike Singletary is not good enough to be our head coach. All negative things. All sad things. And that's really not fun for me, because I'm normally a very happy optimistic guy. I have great memories of the 49er teams in the golden years -- and I want us to be great again.
And I am happy to say today: I love Troy Smith! I love the kid. He's fast. He's got a strong accurate arm. He showed a lot of guts today. And a lot of poise. I mean, I could not be prouder of his first game.
Now of course, he was insanely lucky with that one pass to Walker. It was a Hail Mary in the middle of a close game. But I want to look at the bright side: 1) He had the arm to throw it that far, and accurately get it to Walker. 2) He'd been caged up all day by the game plan. I understand why. But when you're behind in the second half, and you haven't really been able to show the coaches or the team what you've got, then youth, confidence, and inexperience can make you throw a dumb pass like that. And guess who else has thrown dumb passes like that throughout his career? Bret Farve. Right? And he gets "lucky" way too often for it to only be called luck. So while I don't want to see Troy do that again any time soon, nor do I want him to end of with as many interceptions as Farve, I think there was some logic behind the luck : He felt like there needed to be a game changer, for him personally, and in the game. Worst case scenario it gets intercepted on the 1 yard line. Best case scenario we tie the game. On a scale of 0-10 the decision wasn't a zero. 3) But here's the main thing: When Walker caught the ball, I began to laugh. I was laughing so hard I almost spilled my drink. Because, FINALLY, I thought to myself, we have a QB willing to lay it on the line, defy the coaches, defy the odds, and take his shot, and win the bet. When the hell is the last time we had a QB like that?
So I am really happy with the kid. He made a lot of good throws, and one miracle throw. No interceptions. He can run, escape the pocket, and improvise. He can throw accurately on the run. And early on, with that pass to Crabtree that went over his head (hopefully on purpose with double coverage) the Broncos were put on notice: DUDES, I'm not Alex the Dinker Smith. I've got a cannon and I'll use it when I see daylight out there. Show me 8 in the box and I'm going deep. And I can throw accurately enough to hit my guy. THIS HASN'T HAPPENED FOR US IN A REAL GAME IN A LONG LONG TIME!
Of course, Nate Davis showed us some great things in pre-season and should now be promoted to 2nd string, in my opinion. We will then have two great young QB with lots of potential instead of praying for Andrew Luck to fall in our laps in next year's draft. We don't need him now. I think we have a gem in Troy Smith. He's a winner. He's fierce. He was obviously showing leadership out there, even in his first game. So GO NINERS!!!
Now for the coaching:
I'll give Singletary this: He had the guts to make Troy Smith the starter even before the bye week. Smart call. Because now, with game experience in hand, he can learn from that, and watch film, and really take over as our permanent starting QB. Good job, Mike.
But the play calling was still suspect. I know Troy needed to be protected. I totally get that. But at the end of the first quarter we're at 3rd and inches from the goal line, and we once again run Gore up the middle. I thought that was REALLY stupid. There were 9 Broncos at the line of scrimmage. They keyed in on Gore. The call had to change because of that -- Play fake, and give the kid a shot to throw it in. If he misses, then go for it on 4th down instead of kicking a field goal. Now the defense doesn't know what we're going to call. Instead Gore gets stuffed. We hit the field goal. And all the confidence that the offense had on that drive evaporated, until Troy hit the miracle pass. I just hate play calling like that. And I fault Singletary for that kind of crappy gutless call. I'm sick of it.
Here's more good news though: Finally we were substituting for Gore during the game and giving him breathers for one play at a time. GREAT! But why Dixon over Westbrook? I still think Westbrook has a lot left. We need to give him a chance to get a rhythm going and let him do his thing too. Gore is our main guy. But it's a long long season. And Gore gets injured late almost every year. We need to get Westbrook more involved. And let Dixon ease in to the roll more. He's done nothing in game situations. I like the kid a lot. But not over Westbrook at this point.
One other note: The 49ers statistically went into today's game the most penalized team in the entire NFL. Hard to believe given that Oakland and Dallas are also in the NFL, but true. And our takeaway ratio is pathetic. I blame both of those things on bad coaching.
After the half, once again, the opposing coach adjusted his game plan and come out swinging with flea flickers and other plays that sucked our rookie safety in. Good. Smart. What do we do? We run Frank Gore up the middle on 1st and 10 almost every time, again. I know Troy needs to be protected, but that's just stupid play calling. No excuse for doing that when the other team knows it's coming. Why put a young rookie QB in 2nd and 9 situations all day? Makes no sense. I know at the end of the game Gore was finding lots of holes up the middle. But why call the same damn play on 1st and 10 every time? It wasn't working that well on a percentage basis. It made no sense to put Smith in bad situations like that all day, then expect him to get a first down in essentially 2 plays instead of 3.
Brandon Lloyd. If one guy can't cover the dude, you have to double cover, or at least make some adjustment at the half so Orton and him aren't out there playing catch while we're just standing around. That adjustment should have been made. It wasn't. That's bad coaching.
So, all in all, my assessment is this:
Troy Smith could just be our QBOTF!!! That's great news! And I give Singletary credit for letting him start this game over David Carr Crash.
HOWEVER, I still think we are out-coached almost every game. And this has to be Singletary's last year.
I think Gruden will go to Dallas. But if Jeff Fisher gets fired from the Titans I think he'd be a great choice. He's defense minded, but has worked with two great mobile QBs for most of his coaching career at Tennessee. He's crafty. He knows his x's and o's. He used to be a Niners defensive coach. He's been to the Super Bowl. He's gutsy and tough, but creative and aggressive. If the Titans let him go I think he'd be a good choice. He has wide receivers here, and a TE that can catch the ball. Our O-line is coming together. He could step right in and be our next truly great HC.
What do you guys think about Troy Smith today? Does it give you some cause for hope?
What do you think of the coaching and play calling?
And if we do have a new HC next year, which I still think we will, what about Jeff Fisher? Or who else at this point if Gruden goes to Dallas for big bucks? I know Fooch is against college coaches, but Harbaugh might also be an interesting choice as a fallback position. Now that we have a good young QB, the sky's the limit!