As the 49ers have become more and more successful this year, I have noticed a greater tendency in myself to seek out national sports news outlets. I would say that most of the time, I am reading your Maioccos and your Barrows. Sometimes, however, I am drawn like the proverbial fly to the Venus Flytrap toward more national reporting.
Frankly, I'm curious. I want to know what other people are, you know, saying about stuff and stuff. Usually, that's about all I see. People say stuff about stuff because of reasons and stuff. Oh yeah, there are a lot of things: because of reasons and stuff these things about the 49ers are thingy-things.
If you want informed sports writing, CSN Bay Area is where it's at. Or the Sac Bee. Or, better yet, stop by the one-stop website for everything 49ers at NinersNation.com! where you get smart analysis with darn good looking writers.
Occasionally, when perusing the national news outlets, I find something insightful and in some ways I like it more. At the very least, Skip Bayless' neck skin makes me giggle (please don't ask why - it disturbs me to think about it). What I find most fun of all, however, is when I find a fool saying foolish things. Let me tell you: Jeff Pearlman in his recent article "The Real Tim Tebow" for Esquire says a lot of foolish things.
Follow me after the jump, if you would be so kind.
Now I want to be explicit in three ways before I start this review:
1) I don't know Jeff Pearlman. I've never met him. I don't necessarily care to, but whatever. As such, I can't actually claim to know if he is an idiot or not (as I essentially do in the title of this article). I think he has written a lot of idiotic things in his career (not the least of which is his unofficial official biography about Barry Hilter, I mean Bonds - reading the book, one wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two). But just because I am about to attack his idiotic statements does not mean I am interested in actually attacking him as a person. I shouldn't have to write this disclaimer, but hey, internet.
2) Tim Tebow is a religious dude. I am too. Millions of people are. We all express this in different ways. This should be all I have to say, but again, I kind of like Tebow for his upfront honesty with his faith, and yet I can also see how this could be super-duper annoying. What is most important, and what we can all agree on, is that Tim Tebow is not a good Quarterback. My statement has nothing to do with him personally.
And 3), and perhaps most importantly, I am about to say some nice things about Alex Smith. I just want to be clear: Alex Smith is a slight above average NFL QB. I don't know if he is going to be the 49ers' long term QB. Personally, I don't think he should, but if he keeps playing the way he has been, I wouldn't lose sleep over it. Now let us commence!
Pearlman, in "The Real Tim Tebow," essentially argues that Tim Tebow's recent appeal is based in the fact that we perceive the Bronco QB as an average dude doing above-average things. As Pearlman writes, this is "wickedly appealing to your average fan, in the if-this-shit-bag-can-do-it-maybe-I-can-too sort of way."
First off, I would like to say that Pearlman calling Tebow a [site decorum]-bag without really qualifying it except to, you know, just assume that this is what everybody and their mother thinks is pretty foolish.
I would argue that people watch the NFL because they want to see transcendent people with transcendent athletic gifts do transcendent things. College and High School ball holds more of what Pearlman considers Tebowmania. True, athletes in college are way more athletic than us average joes, but the games has more of an organic and less professional appeal. The NFL is different.
But Tebowmania is misplaced, Pearlman asserts, because he "actually belongs in the NFL" since "he's big, he's fast, [and] he's athletic." Pearlman illustrates this with football stats and height and weight measurements and 40 times and ... oh wait, he illustrates his point by imagining Tim Tebow arm wrestling some dude, and because Tebow wins this arm wrestling match in Pearlman's fantasy land, he deserves to be in the NFL. Science.
Rather, it is Alex Smith who is just super average and deserves our attention, says Pearlman, because he is, well, super average.
Ugh... just ugh. And bleh too. Hecka bleh. Like, hecka stupid ugh-bleh.
If Pearlman were to cite Tebow's numbers like his horrid accuracy rate and then how many games he has won in making the claim that he is an average (or below-average player, as I think) who is doing extraordinary things, then I might listen. I wouldn't buy it because I think this whole Tebowmania thing is more of a media generated controversy than anything. Nobody I talk to who is a football fan cares about Tebow like the media does. People who aren't football fans but are more of religion fans seem to care to a greater extent.
But no, instead Pearlman conjures up some sort of subjective measuring stick for evaluating Alex Smith and Tim Tebow in conjunction. The measuring stick? Basically how buff they look on television. Pearlman perceives Tebow as athletic and thus Timmy-boy deserves to be in the pros; Alex, on the other hand, is just a "crap player" who "hasn't fully embarrassed himself." Or, as Pearlman asserts "that Alex Smith kid really can't throw or run, but the Niners sure have found ways around it!"
This year, a look at Alex's numbers does not reveal a "crap player." They reveal an average to slightly above NFL QB who is playing well within his system. Moreover, if he would even bother to watch the games, Pearlman would realize that Alex can run really well and he can make way more throws than Tebow. Really the only throw he can't make, to my great consternation, is the sideline throw. It's an important throw, but he is way more accurate than in years past and leaps and bounds more accurate than Tim Tebow.
But what bugged me the most about Pearlman's evaluation of Alex is that he is attacking the system in which Smith operates too, not just the player. Alex just throws a "series of dinks [and] dunks." Pearlman reaches the conclusion that "When Coach Jim Harbaugh tells Smith to roll out and throw a three-yard screen to Gore, he does so. When Harbaugh tells Smith to hit Crabtree five yards out on a slant, he does so, too. The whole thing is uncomplicated and precisely scripted, the updated version of NFL Quarterbacking for Dummies."
These few sentences should just piss off anybody who knows anything about the West Coast offense. What system uses running backs not just in pass protection but also as pass receivers? The WCO. What system highly values the slant route? The WCO. What system first had, quite literally, scripted plays to start a game? Say it with me now, the WCO. This is the system that Joe ran, that Steve ran, and that changed the landscape of the NFL. Since when did a strong, short passing game become something only "crap" QBs run?
Sure, can Aaron Rodgers make every throw, long and short? Yeah, and he would play better in Harbaugh's system than Alex does. Would the system make him any less of a player? Not at all.
Oh yeah, and have you seen Alex's biceps? They are insane. Pearlman got this all wrong.