Before I get into the bulk of this post, I would like to preface by saying this post is not intended to offer any "fix" to the 49ers quarterback position, rather it is intended to begin a discussion with my fellow 49ers Faithful on the current QB situation.
49ers quarterback. It's been hashed out a billion times, and when that wasn't enough it was hashed out another billion times. We all have our own ideas of who is better and what the 49ers should do, but I believe we can all agree there is no clear-cut fix or answer at the present time. No player is going to magically come in this year and suddenly make this team a consistent winner. We can all speculate why that is... whether it be the offensive line, the receivers, the game plans/play calling, the head coaching, the position coaching, or the lack of talent at QB in of itself... in the end, we all know the results are not there at this moment in time. It's a shitty reality, but we have to face it.
After roughly a month, we now have a good sample size of Troy Smith playing QB for the 49ers. This is why I say "re-evaluate" the position, because we now have a good idea what Troy does and does not bring to the football field at the present time. And this is exactly why I am making this post, because I want to hear the varying opinions on Troy Smith.
In fact, I have a handful of specific questions for anyone interested in pitching in their thoughts on Troy Smith:
- What are your thoughts on how he has performed as the 49ers starting quarterback, both overall and/or specific games?
- What do you feel are his strengths and weaknesses?
- How high do you view Troy's "ceiling?"
- Do you want the 49ers to re-sign Troy for 2011 and beyond? And a follow-up: Would you want him to be the starter, compete for the starting job with other QBs, or be the backup?
Behind the jump will be a run-down of my thoughts on Troy and the current/future 49ers QB situation, followed by a poll.
Yeah, we all know "Effage" is an Alex Smith supporter. But don't hold that against him, because he likes a lot of what he has seen from Troy Smith. In fact, he could see this guy developing into a very good NFL quarterback. ... And he should also stop talking in the third person. [/third person mode]
[first person mode]
Unfortunately, aside from Troy's very exciting 350+ yard performance, he has been nothing more than pedestrian. He does have a knack for the big play, and that is both promising and exciting. But he has become increasingly dependent on the running game, and he simply is not prepared to run the 49ers offense. None of this is his fault, of course. His lack of time in SF is obviously the #1 reason for his lack of ability to run the whole offense. These things very well could develop over time.
With that said, I am a bit concerned as we simply have not seen much from Troy as a pocket passer. He kind of reminds me of a less-athletic version of the Atlanta Michael Vick. I was never a big fan of Vick (he has since proven me wrong by becoming a threatening pocket passer), so Troy will inevitably have to develop the skills to become a passing quarterback that can read defenses, anticipate receivers coming open, and deliver accurate on short and intermediate routes. But that isn't really his strength. By my estimation, he is by far most comfortable and effective on routes where he completely avoids looking at the defense altogether (aside from maybe half of the secondary). Again, this is likely a result of little knowledge in this offense, but that doesn't mean he can't read the defense and make tight throws.
I like his moxie, leadership, elusiveness, agility, and definitely his arm strength. He delivers a very pretty football, and clearly can throw the ball with more authority and consistent spiral than the other 2 QBs on the 53 man roster (Alex and David). I like the confidence to let his receivers go make a play, and there are times when that has paid dividends with big plays. However, the big plays have become few and far between, and the inaccuracies and lack of ability to anticipate are starting to show themselves far too often.
What are my thoughts for right now and for the future? Well, it's a tough spot. Anyone saying they know the answer is simply a hot air balloon. This team has numerous problems, and quarterback remains a top priority issue. If i were the coach (coaching for my job) i would spend this entire night evaluating tape... I may not sleep but a few hours. That is where Singletary is, and the issue seems to be that even when he watches film, he doesn't see what he needs to see. But that is speculation.
From what I've seen at this point, I'm not so sure Troy does give the team any better chance to win right now than Alex. That may sound like blasphemy, and hey, it probably is blasphemy. My point is not that Alex is a better quarterback than Troy. My point is that the production at the position is dwindling, and while Alex is more of a risky play, I think he is much more mentally prepared to play the 49ers offense at this point in time. He can make all the line adjustments, run the entire playbook, and can read the defenses. That does not mean he is a better long term option... I am simply someone that likes to play the player that is more prepared.
Side note: I actually like both Smith QBs and would not mind seeing them both return next season to compete with with an added veteran QB (if possible) and a draft picked QB.
If Alex were playing, I can mostly guarantee more drives would have been sustained and more 3rd downs converted... Now whether those drives end in a turnover is an entirely different story (and could make any change at QB completely negligible), but the last few games Alex played he had stopped turning the ball over. That may be an aberration (probably) or it may be a (slight) sign of improvement, but I don't think he is a totally lost cause. Maybe I'm too optimistic, maybe not.
Do I think it matters? No, not really. The 49ers are a bad football team in a bad division, and they have endless issues. The entire hierarchy has to change for the better before personnel moves even matter.
Edit note: For the record, I think Troy is a better fit than Alex for this run-heavy, play-action passing team, but I do think Alex's preparation makes a big difference. You are welcomed to disagree with that assessment, of course. Also, I think that is neither here nor there, because I doubt this same offense will be here next season with the coaching changes likely to come.
I gave up on this 49ers team 6 weeks ago. I still love my 49ers, and I always root for them to win. I have finally accepted this team for what it is and I have met peace with it. I can now look at the players on the team more for what they are than what I want them to become. However, i still think all of these guys could become so much more with the right coaching and leadership. That includes both Smith quarterbacks, and just about every other guy on the team.
I want to bring a little optimism back to 49ers land. And whether you're in Troy's camp, Alex's camp, both camps, or neither camps... I have a positive sense about the entire thing. Why? I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That light probably will not include Mike Singletary, and who knows if one, both, or neither of the Smith QBs will return next season... but I see light. I have to. I'm one of the 49er Faithful. I root for whoever is wearing 49ers red and gold... it's in my blood. I just hope they become winners again.
I love my 49ers. Don't you? :)
Edited Update: Thanks for the rec's, guys. It's very humbling, and I always appreciate the support.