One of the more interesting stats involving Troy Smith are those involving throws on first down: 17 of 20 for 357 yards over two games. That's nearly 18 yards per attempt, which is fantastic. Not quite as fantastic as you'd think though when you look at the rest of his numbers and the context of that impressive initial stat.
His 2nd down YPA is down to 8.3 and his completion percentage drops to 57.1 (8-14). Then on 3rd down things get worse with a 4.7 YPA and an abysmal 25% completion percentage (3 of 12). What does this mean?
First down is when the Niners like to run up the middle for one yard... every team, fan, and person who's every even heard of football knows this. Teams just aren't going to respect the pass with a new QB in that situation so they're going to give him man-to-man coverage and load the box to stop Frank-the-Tank. Against man coverage, he's been good... hell, fantastic.
In the traditional passing down situation of 2nd down he's been much, much more pedestrian. No better than Alex Smith save for a lack of interceptions (good but insignificant given then small sample size).
On must-pass situations like 3rd down, he's been awful. He couldn't help the team convert one 3rd down all game against St. Louis. His only saving grace is, again, a lack on interceptions.
What of those interceptions then? Is he better than Alex Smith there? Thus far yes but he's also been in closer games against much more suspect secondaries. Denver? St. Louis? Not quite on the same level as NO, Philly, Atlanta, or even Carolina. He's also been at home in both games, something that won't be true this week against Tampa Bay. Troy has thrown some suspect passes into tight-coverage but that alone isn't cause for worry because this is a game of inches. Any QB can make a throw into coverage but the great ones throw it early enough or hard enough to beat the coverage... that is where Troy has Alex beat: arm strength.
All in all, I'd say that his arm strength alone has made a huge, huge difference when it comes to fitting a ball into a tight-window. A little bit of velocity is the difference between an int and a completion. He seems calm and mentally tough... more so than the skittish Alex Smith who makes my football novice girlfriend terrified every time he drops back to pass.
Is Troy our future? I have my doubts... he hasn't shown an ability to move the ball consistently by converting 3rd down opportunities and that is something that every good QB must be able to do. His mid-level accuracy isn't great and he holds the ball too long but he also doesn't (at least now) make big mistakes. So in conclusion, I think that Troy is coachable and his weaknesses fixable but his intangibles impressive.
My score: 6.5 out of 10 with the potential to maybe be a 9 some day with good coaching. I've got my fingers crossed but I'm far from sold.
UPDATE: The Tampa Bay game is in San Francisco. I still think it'll be a test when Troy hits the road... we'll see.