So watching the game at my 49ers bar here in San Diego, I couldn't help but notice some glaring things about the 49ers as a team. And in the process of that I identified what our problem is (we all know already what the problem is), but I guess I should say specifically what the problem is with the player who has the problem.
First off things that have been reaffirmed by the past two games:
- Our defense is good and can hang in there, but they will not win our games for us.
- Special teams is better and is putting us in great positions in terms of field position and potential scoring returns.
The problem with the 49ers is the offense, more specifically the passing game. I will say right not it is not our WRs. When WRs are dropping perfectly thrown balls and causing us to consistently not get 1st downs, then it will be a WRs problem. And that is clearly not us, see reference Rams and Rams versus Giants highlights.
You guessed, the problem is Alex Smith. Big surprise I know but its not that he isn't a capable QB, he very much is. But here is his achilles heel and the reason why the passing game is stalling, or at least half stalling. Alex Smith has no vision of the field when taking the snap behind the center. Somewhere in the course of running back three steps and keeping his head up, Smith gets lost in finding open WRs. However, in the spread shotgun, Smith is Peyton Manning. He can see the whole field, he can see what the defense is giving him, he can see incoming blitzes, and make decisions. Its not just a matter of him being better at a spread, he just does not know how to make the proper reads behind center.
Its no coincidence that, and this is true of the games last year, when the 49ers start running shotgun formations the 49ers passing game started to pick up steam. Now im not advocating changing every offensive play to be run out of the shotgun, though that honestly can't hurt. For reasons of maintaining a formidable running game and passing attack, and also utilizing potential play actions, snapping it behind center is vital. But there is no working around it, Alex Smith needs to develop the ability to read coverages as he is taking his 3-4 step drops to the same level as if he were snapping it from the shotgun. There have been countless times Alex Smith has missed wide open WRs due to lack of field vision. I am not ignoring some of the poor decisions of getting rid of the ball or protecting it during pass rushes, but all QBs face those issues. The lack of field vision is the greatest concern our offense is dealing with. I read an article that I agree with that basically states our opposing team's defense do not respect our passing attack. They will continue to stack the box and shut Gore out and force us to show our passing game can move the chains. And until it does, thats how they will beat us. Fix the passing game and the 49ers will have a shot. Our defense and special teams are giving us the opportunities, and we can't afford to continue to settle for 4 straight Field Goals to win games.
I hope Harbaugh see's this issue. He is the QB guru and its blatantly obvious just from Smith's play. I can say this though, if Alex Smith and Harbaugh can't fix this lack of field vision from the snap, Smith will be gone and it will only be a matter of when Kaepernick is given the chance to gain experience and demonstrate if he can lead our talented offense to a winning record. Clocks ticking Alex.