Hey everybody! I have been really frustrated by some of the mistakes from earlier in the season. Against Cleveland, many of those mistakes reared their ugly heads again. Rather than making a passionate comment in an existing thread and then arguing about it, I figured I should write a fanpost instead. Please read on and then discuss in the comments.
I've been all over the map as far as Alex Smith goes. Sometimes I defend him, sometimes I call for his head. If you remember from my earlier fanpost ("Caveman Football"), you will remember that I was a bit wary of Alex's success and mentioned that I wasn't sure he could take it to the next level.
In the Brown's game, Alex pretty much proved my point. He's been off all year when throwing to Crabtree, but this game was just awful. For the first time this year, I found myself repeatedly wanting to yell at Alex. It was kind of like what somebody (Montana? Young?) said about watching Tebow. It's like, "Oh no, don't do that, please don't...nooo!"
Alex Smith has always struggled with accuracy issues. Sometimes he has them under control, other times he buries himself by them. This is not something I think he can fix with time, chemistry, coaching, or familiarity with players. He just plain doesn't have that natural ability to throw a ball the way it needs to be thrown on any given play in such a way as to get his guy to catch it. He's not a backup, he's not quite a starter. He won't win you any games, but he will help you lose them.
Frankly, Colt McCoy outplayed Alex today. It seemed during the second half that our coaches didn't trust Alex at all. His accuracy was all over the map. The coaches tried running the ball over and over again. That didn't work, but they still didn't try to throw it much. Instead, they resorted to bringing in extra blockers and running gimmick plays like the reverse and throwing to Staley and Sopoaga. Those are desparation plays. You only run those plays when the game is on the line and you can't get it done any other way. Teams like Green Bay and New England turn to their quarterback to get them out of a jam. We can't do that because we can't trust Alex Smith like you can a Rogers or a Brady.
Now whether Harbaugh wants to admit it or not, we have to figure out what we are going to do with the QB situation going forward. If we're looking to make a playoff run, Alex Smith is a scary option. He's not going to bring us a victory over teams like Green Bay. That being said, Kaepernick is a huge unknown. He could be an upgrade, or he could be worse. You won't know unless you bench Smith. Problem is, if you bench Smith you destroy his confidence and cause division in the locker room. However, Kaepernick could be just what we need...
We've got some pretty easy games left, playing teams like Washington, Seattle, Arizona, and St. Louis. Those are games that could help Kaep get his feet wet and develop consistency. He can do things throwing the ball and running it himself that Alex Smith just can't. He has the arm and the accuracy to keep defenses honest. He might have the passing skills to keep us in the game during a shoot-out. SO, do we keep riding with Smith and winning ugly games? Or is there a point where we tell Alex that he just isn't doing a good enough job and we turn to Kaepernick? For those that would like to say he is raw and not ready to be a starter, wouldn't you have said the same about Aldon Smith? Chris Culliver? Bruce Miller?
This is something that I also discussed in "Caveman Football". I said that we need to open up the offense more. My point was proven against Cleveland when they kept stuffing the run because they knew what we were going to do. We need to be able to beat teams when they take away the run. We need to scare teams with our passing games. We have weapons like Crabtree, Edwards, Walker and Davis. With those kinds of weapons, most teams would pass more than we do. However, we can't do that. Our passing game is just too Bipolar. I'm sure some of it is on the receivers. But there has to be a point when the QB can throw the receiver open. The QB has to be able to throw the ball 40 yards downfield and hit the receiver in stride over and over again until the defense stops it. Like I said above, Alex has proven that he just can't do that. He might be able to for a quarter, or even a half. But he can't do it consistently over the course of an entire game.
Dashon Goldson had arguably his worst game of the season against the Browns. There were multiple occasions when he hurt us. Besides the Cribbs touchdown, there were also several other plays, notably one on which he completely whiffed on an attempted tackle of TE Alex Smith. He came flying up in plenty of time to make the hit, but he dove at the guy's legs instead. I really hope Dashon rebounds from this performance, because right now he is vying with Tarell Brown for the position of weakest link on defense. Neither of them is terrible, but they are clearly not as good as the rest of the guys on our D.
This is something I've noticed as a continuing theme this season. Almost every game we have a stupid penalty where a defender makes a great play but is called for either hitting a defenseless receiver, leading with the helmet, or hitting the head area. Almost every time, reviews show that the call is bogus, and usually the call ends up being a game-changer. On some of these calls, Harbaugh even contacted the league and was told the penalties were bogus. What good is an apology from the league when we're beating up on a team but the momentum shifts in their favor because of a stupid call? We've almost lost several games because of it. I for one am very upset about this, and I think it HAS to end. Enough's enough. Repeal the stupid defenseless receiver and leading with the helmet penalties and let the guys play football.