The 49ers are the trendy favorite pick to win the NFC west this year and with good reason. The team has a young talented nucleus who are responding to their coach. They look to be on the brink of turning the corner as a franchise.
QB, however remains one of the biggest questions on the team. The 49ers go into this season with the same starting QB and offensive coordinator that they finished the previous season with for the first time since Joe Nedney had hair.
This continuity, along with a revamped offensive line and their best receiving corps since......Joe Nedney had hair? Should give Alex Smith his best chance yet as a 49er to succeed. The question I'd like to ask though is: How good does He need to be? More specifically, How good does he need to be to get us to the Super Bowl?
To answer this question I've decided to go back 10 year and look at the QB Ratings of each QB the season they went to the Super Bowl as well as their QB rating one season prior to going. I'm using QB Rating because it's an objective measure that's easy to manage. In a way this changes the question to: How well does our QB need to produce to get into the Super Bowl?, but I can live with that. I thought about going back 20 years to generate more data, but decided that the gain of additional data would have been offset by it's relevance. The game just changes too fast.
|2010||Drew Brees||109.6||96.2||2010||Peyton Manning||99.9||95|
|2009||Ben Roethlisburger||80.1||104.1||2009||Kurt Warner||96.9||89.8|
|2008||Eli Manning||73.9||77||2008||Tom Brady||117.2||87.9|
|2007||Peyton Manning||101||104.1||2007||Rex Grossman||73.9||66.4|
|2006||Ben Roethlisburger||98.6||98.1||2006||Matt Hasslebach||98.2||83.1|
|2005||Tom Brady||92.6||85.9||2005||Donovan McNabb||104.7||79.6|
|2004||Tom Brady||85.9||85.7||2004||Jake Delhomme||80.6||N/A|
|2003||Brad Johnson||92.9||72.7||2003||Rich Gannon||97.3||95.5|
|2002||Tom Brady||86.5||N/A||2002||Kurt Warner||101.4||98.3|
|2001||Trent Dilfer||76.6||75.8||2001||Kerry Collins||83.1||73.3|
Just looking at the list a couple things stick out. Most of the guys on the list are considered good if not great QBs and all but a handful were considered the a franchise QB at the time of their SB. The average QB rating for a starting QB in the last ten Super Bowls is 92.5 the season that they went to the SB and 87.1 the season before they went to the SB (Delhomme and Tom Brady's 2002 and 2000 regular season stats were omitted because they were not starters those years.) The lowest QB regular season QB rating for a SB QB was tied 73.9, Rex Grossman in 2006 and Eli Manning in 2007. Grossman also had the lowest rating for one season prior to winning the SB with 66.4.
Alex Smith's 2009 QB rating was 81.5. That puts him a little more than 10 points behind the mean QB rating of QB Starters. It also means that out of 20 starting QBs, Smith had a better QB rating than 5 out of 20 or %25 of all QBs in the last 10 years to start at QB in the SB.
So does any of this answer the question? How good does your QB need to be to get to the SB?
Right now, it says that Alex Smith's production is about 10 QB rating points below par (the average SB starter). So at last year's production level he would lower his team's chance to get to a Super Bowl, but his production would not be so bad that it excluded the chance of a Super Bowl appearance.