SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 09: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers in action during their against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Candlestick Park on October 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Over the past five weeks, as Alex Smith has begun to emerge from the shadows of the last six years, there has been a ton of debate over his performances thus far and what it all means. We hear comments about Alex playing within himself, doing less, being in the right system, having the right coach, and of course being a solid "game manager."
I would argue the way we define different terms leads to as many of the spats over Alex Smith as anything else. The term game manager strikes me as the worst of such terms, not because it is a bad way to describe him, but because it really can cover so many types of QB play. We began the discussion in this solid FanPost and I wanted to bring the discussion onto the front page.
When I mentioned the phrase "game manager", how many people immediately though of Trent Dilfer? His Super Bowl season with the Ravens is held up as Exhibit 1 of being a solid game manager. He had one of the greatest defenses of all time behind him and so his role was basically to avoid stupid mistakes. He was managing the game in a fairly simplified sense.
In reality, if you wanted to take the phrase a little more literally, couldn't you argue that Peyton Manning or Drew Brees or many great quarterbacks is a great game manager? I don't think this is an all-inclusive list. In looking at the more literal use of the term, I would say a QB like Brett Favre in his prime was not a guy who managed the game particularly well. He was a great gun-slinger type of quarterback, but not a guy I would put in the Manning or Brees area.
Using the term in that sense, I think Alex Smith falls under the category of game manager. He is not at Manning or Brees' level, but he does what is asked of him and this season has had a good deal of success because of that. That is managing the game. I think he has more upside than 2000 Trent Dilfer (although at that point Dilfer was only a year older than Smith) but I think both can be labeled as game managers without it meaning they are the same.
Given that it has only been five games it might be too early to label Smith anything. For now though, how do you define a "game manager" quarterback?