So what can be said about Alex Smith that hasn't already been said? Not a whole lot, it turns out, so I'm going to handle this like any of the others. I won't talk about what he can do for us this coming season, things like that.. or maybe I will. I don't fully know at the moment because I tend to ramble, which is a byproduct of me working on several things at once and also writing in my personal blog... so yeah, I'm already rambling.
Alex Smith is the 49ers starting quarterback. There may be one, maybe two people who think David Carr is going to be that guy (Carr's agent and mother, respectively), but it's Smith. So make the jump and let's see what kind of player and person we've got to work with.
Smith had a great high school career, amassing a 25-1 record in his junior and senior years. He broke several school records, and was the conference offensive player of the year twice, and the team MVP twice. He then went on to play for the University of Utah.
Smith's stellar play in college, which included a 21-1 record as a starter with wins in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, the 2003 Liberty Bowl, being fourth in votes for the 2004 Heisman Trophy, and winning the 2004 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year award, was enough to make him the number one overall pick by our San Francisco 49ers.
We all know what happened then, right? Smith struggled right off the bat, being thrown to the wolves with a horrible team built around him, his level of play was abysmal at best. In 2006, he had a much better season, and lived up to his draft status to an extent.
Throw in a couple injuries, a dispute with then head coach Mike Nolan, a fake quarterback battle in which the job was awarded to a fake quarterback with stones for hands and you've got a player who is truly a question mark. But if there's anything I can talk about, it's his potential.
Yesterday someone on NN noted that Smith likely wasn't ever thought to have the ceiling, or potential, of Peyton Manning. I counter that he was, and should be expected and held by those standards. I think all of us would be happy if we came out with at least an average QB on our hands, but Smith's physical tools and mental capacity to me suggest that he is smarter than Manning, with a higher threshold.
In high school he had a 4.4 GPA, and in college he had a 3.7 GPA coming out of college, where he graduated in two years and was a Master's candidate in economics. The kid got a 40 on the Wonderlic. One of his greatest assets has always been his brain, being able to think a step ahead of a defense, being able to store so much knowledge.
Yet last season, he didn't know much of anything--didn't know how to audible, wasn't sure of his own adjustments. Everything last season was entirely based on instincts, and a player like Smith needs to be 'settle in' to his instincts. His second year of college in Urban Meyer's system saw Smith making audibles constantly, reading defenses and making adjustments. That's what Smith can do, given time.
So I would say that yes, Alex Smith has the potential to be like Peyton Manning, as far as running an offense goes, there's no reason he can't... he just needs five years of the same offensive staff around him.
On a personal level, there's not a whole lot known about Smith. He has taken part in several football-related charities, most of which include teaching kids to eat healthy and stay active. He's a mostly quiet guy, but when he talks he comes off as articulate and intelligent. He was married recently.
Smith is a guy who was ultra-productive in college and has an extremely high ceiling. He's had to suffer through being on a horrible team as a rookie, not having a stable coaching staff throughout his entire professional career, the indignity of having to take a paycut, and having to deal with the suicide of his best friend, all the while placing some amount of blame on himself.
I just find myself rooting for him. Last season I want him gone, but as I read about him, who he is and his potential, I just want him to succeed--and not just because he's a 49er. Sorry I couldn't find a whole lot more on Smith, but at the very least there's plenty to talk about in the comments.