Alex Smith's Last Stand

Alex Smith spoke with the media yesterday after practice and some of his comments got me thinking about his role as 49ers QB and what the next few weeks will hopefully tell us. It's safe to say he's happy with the switch even if he would never come right out and say that. Alex Smith generally doesn't let a lot out in his media sessions but he had a couple intriguing comments about potential changes in the offense:

On whether the offense will feature more variation going forward:

"I do think there will be more variation. I think personnel and formations, things like that, we'll do some different things I think to find out how they're going to play certain personnels, find out how they're going to play certain formations then go from there, no question."

On whether the spread offense will be more incorporated:

"I think parts of it. I guess I just go back to you can't force the hand. I think in this league you have to be able to present a lot of different things to a defense. You have to make the defense defend a lot of different things, and that has to do with personnel, that has to do with formations and just how you attack the field and attack the defense and I think that's definitely an area of it."

Over the past 5+ seasons there have been plenty of reasons/excuses listed by Alex Smith fans to buy him more time. I know this because I'm one of those people and have certainly thrown out some of the basics like the revolving door OC and the injury issues. Heading into this season I thought we had made it through the final excuse of the revolving door OC, but I didn't fully comprehend how bad Jimmy Raye could be in his play-calling.

It's become quite the cliche, but can we Alex Smith supporters finally say we've removed the final possible barrier to protecting Alex Smith from the haters (please don't mock me too much in rolling out the cliche one more time)? Outside of bringing back Norv Turner, Alex Smith may have his ideal offensive coordinator. Mike Johnson is new to the position of OC and combined with his youth would seem to make him open to suggestions from Smith. And yet the playbook won't change so we won't have a new offense to install in short order. Even more importantly, we've got a guy who spent time researching the spread offense before he joined the 49ers coaching staff. Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree both excelled in spread offenses. I think that speaks for itself.

I know some of you are laughing at the parade of excuses but I personally can live with it. Alex Smith has shown some problems with accuracy and touch on his passes. I don't know if changing the play-calling will make a difference, but I'm willing to give it one last shot. Maybe utilizing more rollouts will make the difference for him. Maybe not. If you've moved on and have had enough, so be it. However, I look at the coming weeks as Alex Smith's last stand.

I'd suspect he'll be the starting QB for most of the rest of the season no matter what given the 49ers current QB situation, but if he struggles the next three or four weeks he'll turn into nothing more than a lame duck. I'm certainly hoping that is not the case and that he is able to find the sustained success that has eluded him throughout his NFL career. Whatever the case, I suspect I'll get my final answer about Alex Smith over the next month or so.

Quarterback Alex Smith
Post Walkthru - September 29, 2010
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

On how this Tuesday was different from in the past week:

"Yeah, different for sure obviously just with the changes, [new offensive coordinator] Mike [Johnson] coming in. We put a little more time here, just around, see how things were going with the game planning and what was going on. So, yeah, a little more."

On when he and offensive coordinator Mike Johnson met and what they talked about:

"Just met yesterday afternoon. Really they've kind of already finished up most of the game planning by the late afternoon and just went over a bunch of the looks and things we were thinking about. You know, areas of focus, thing like that."

On whether the change with new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will be a smooth transition:

"I think so. Just the fact that he's been here the last two years, or last year and now this year. So, obviously very familiar with what we've done."

On what he anticipates as being different:

"Just his attitude and personal attitude obviously are going to come into effect. I mean, the middle of the season there's isn't going to be an overhaul of changes or anything like that, but definite differences, no question, about how we do things. I think kind of a foundation is there, but building on top of that with different things. So, just his overall personality and philosophy kind of coming down onto the game plan and us."

On whether the change will open up his strengths more:

"Well, I think kind of everybody's strengths, not only mine. I think finding everybody's strengths, putting people in position to make plays, things like that. I mean, that's the focus and how does it fit against this defense, it changes week to week to week. And it's just trying to find those opportunities to get everyone in a position to make plays, not just myself, but obviously I'm included in that."

On offensive coordinator Mike Johnson's style:

"I think we're kind of the same philosophy in the sense that you're going to do what it takes to win the game and that's not going to be the same week-in and week-out. I firmly believe that, but you definitely have to have the capabilities and multiple personnels and looks to do a lot of different things, but it's being able to be flexible. Week-in, week-out, over the course of a game, you have to be able to be flexible. You have to know to look at what the defense is doing to you and combat that, you know to attack that. And just as far as his and I's relationship obviously, it's different just in the sense that he was my quarterbacks coach all last year and this year, so just a different relationship there then obviously now. But yeah, we speak pretty freely; very comfortable speaking our minds with whatever comes."

On whether the offense was stale against the Chiefs:

"Yeah, we definitely weren't, all the way around, we weren't effective, dynamic; whatever you want to call it, certainly this last Sunday. Probably any past few games on offense we didn't do much that was real dynamic."

On the lack of isolating opportunities such as the Chiefs rookie safeties:

"Well it's definitely, that's part of the gameplan. I think that's it. I think a lot gets made up of "Xs" and "Os," but it's certainly finding your mismatches, finding the guys you believe can - learn how you can isolate those mismatches, putting, like I said, guys into position to make plays and that's how you find those. Yeah, you can do it through formats and shifting, and it changes week to week. You look on film and what are some ways we can get our playmakers isolated on their guys and where are our matchups, where are our wings. Trying to find those and obviously we'll make those happen as much as possible."

On whether there is enough in the 49ers offensive system:

"I think so. We're not going to be just taking water out of the tub and trying to fill it back up. I think the foundation is there, no question. And I think one of the great things about the terminology that we use with the number system is that it is so flexible. Numbers are easy to change. There are code words for some things but when you can a play a certain word is it going to get code-named? Then all of a sudden to want to tweak it we have to come up with a whole another code-name and then before you know it, with all your tweaks and adjustments, you got a long list of code-names. With us and numbers, it's easy to make adjustments; you change a number and the play-call and that's all."

On whether the offense will feature more variation going forward:

"I do think there will be more variation. I think personnel and formations, things like that, we'll do some different things I think to find out how they're going to play certain personnels, find out how they're going to play certain formations then go from there, no question."

On whether the spread offense will be more incorporated:

"I think parts of it. I guess I just go back to you can't force the hand. I think in this league you have to be able to present a lot of different things to a defense. You have to make the defense defend a lot of different things, and that has to do with personnel, that has to do with formations and just how you attack the field and attack the defense and I think that's definitely an area of it."

On offensive coordinator Mike Johnson's involvement in the spread that the 49ers ran in 2009:

"Definitely involved in that, yeah no question; especially because we did it kind of as we were going last year on the run and he was definitely involved in that, the development of it, no question. And within that it's finding balance too. Like I said - if you're going to come out in certain personnels and formations you're going to spread people out, you still have to make them defend different things and I think that's what we're looking to do.

On whether offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will be on the sidelines or in the booth:

"I don't know. I spoke with [head] coach Singletary briefly about that yesterday and I think whatever he's most comfortable with; wherever he's going to be the most effective. You know, the sidelines are chaotic and emotional, the ups and downs; it's hard to, I think, hard to focus. I certainly would find it hard as a playcaller, whereas you get up in the box, you can really get some quiet time; especially in between series to think about and plan out the next series. That's hard to do on the sideline, so wherever. I haven't even talked to coach [offensive coordinator Mike] Johnson about it. Guess my opinion, wherever he's going to be the most effective, wherever he's going to be the most comfortable."

On how many times he would talk with former offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye on the headset throughout a game:

"It would change game to game, but probably only a handful of times, a few times a game. It definitely wasn't between every series or anything, but a handful of times, yeah."

On the possibility of using more improvisation with his plays:

"Well I think it's just being decisive. I think that's when good things happen. When you're unsure back there, and you're not - if you should pull the trigger or if you shouldn't, you should try to go out and make a play with your feet, and things like that, that's when bad things happen. But just being confident in what you're doing, making decisive decisions, if it's not there yet, definitely looking to make a play potentially with my legs or scramble and get the throw, but doing things in the right situations, and I think that's where you get in trouble. I think I found myself late in the game on Sunday almost forcing it a little too much and putting myself in some bad situations and putting us on offense in some bad situations."

On the feeling the locker room with the change in offensive coordinators and on whether Singletary was close to losing the team in the locker room:

"I certainly don't think anything like that, no. I think everyone kind of understands the nature of this business is tough, but in a certain way, maybe guys feel like this is a fresh start offensively. So I don't know, I guess I don't want to presume to know what other guys are thinking. I think for me the way I view it is obviously we were part of all of that, those first three games, and Jimmy, as you see is kind of taking that, but we were just as much a part of that and all that. It was our lack of execution and playing out there just as much, but obviously it's something that we have to get corrected as well and have to move on and move forward and have to be far more productive and consistent as players."

On whether he is taking accountability:

"No question, absolutely. I guess I've just been around this long enough, it's easy to point the finger when guys are gone, and kind of roll them under the bus a little bit, but it's convenient for the guys that are still here but it's not the right thing, you know? We certainly all had a hand in it and it's something we have to get fixed."

On whether the change with new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson is a fresh start:

"In some ways its fresh - fresh outlook a little bit, like I said Coach Johnson is going to bring his personality, his energy, his philosophy, you know, to the table now. And I think that's kind of the deal, it's unfortunate that it happened in the middle of the season, but at the same time you have to move on, so with that, yeah, we're looking forward to what Coach Johnson is bringing to the table, some of the changes that are going to be made."

On the biggest thing he has learned from Mike Johnson so far:

"A couple of things, I think the detail - he's a very detailed guy, especially with him - especially his decision making and the fundamentals within the pocket, very detailed. And those two things, I really think the preparation going into a game, the fundamental drill work you do during the week to prepare so that when you get out there during a game you can play and react, those kinds of things as a quarterbacks coach is definitely - it's his biggest effect on me."

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