This is a re-post of most of my response to the "Who will be the 49ers QB in 2011" thread, but thought it would be good enough to stand alone and draw some discussion.
It's my position that Alex Smith was the #1 pick in 2005 for good reason, but the team was ill prepared for their "QB of the Future," so to speak. When I hear people get down on Smith, I always come back to a few points and that it's not as much an Alex Smith question as it is a question of:
1) His (lack of) protection (the LOLine really hurt him). The 49ers allowed 150 sacks in the last 3 regular seasons – an NFL high. That’s an average of more than 3 per game. If the new line can just give Alex some time - A. Davis and Iupati are here to do just that - he’ll come through for us.
2) Lack of a running game. See #1. No blocking means no holes. No holes means you could have anyone short of God almighty in the backfield and they’d get stuffed. New OLine means holes. Holes means running game. Running game lifts pressure from the pass rush, allowing Alex more time to go over the top.
3) Offensive weapons. He has them now. Davis. Crabtree. Gore. Morgan. Combine the correction of points 1 and 2 and you end up with a potent formula.
4) Strong D. If our Defense can at least stay as good as it has been, we’ll probably be a lock for the NFC West. If they get better, then we might be talking more, but that’s all conjecture. Add a few of new new UD class of CB/S's (check them out - they have huge upside potential) and get them under the mentorship of veterans like Clements and Willis and we might have a dynasty-quality defense.
5) Consistency in the OC and the system. This kid has been with a new OC every year since he got to SF. I am not a fan of Jimmy Rae…but whatever. I trust coach Sing. And if he thinks JRay can get it done, then I’ll trust that. ANYTHING consistent is better than changing the system every year.
6) Experience. Alex has been at the top (college), been hurt…thrown into a crappy situation…benched… and earned the job back. He did well once he took over last year…let’s not forget he had to pick himself up off the ground at least 30 times in the 9.5 games he played…. He’s got it now. It’s his time to shine.
Bottom line – you take a #1 pick rookie and throw him into a situation with crappy blocking, no running game, weak offensive weapons, etc…and you get crap. Build a team around him, and you get Joe Montana. :)
(waiting on the "how do you equate Smith with Joe Cool???" responses)