FanPost

Better than Alex Smith? Who's available?

On Monday smileyman posted an article entitled "49ers 2012 Free Agency Review: QBs" which included a poll asking how important it was for the Niners to upgrade at the QB position. I commented that I was surprised by the early poll results which indicated that most of us seemed pretty comfortable with Alex as our continuing starter. Why surprised? It seems to me that if you're a serious fan and you want your team positioned to complete in the Super Bowl every year that you would understand that that can only happen on a consistent basis if you have a grade-A player at the single most important position on the team ... regardless of what Mike Singletary thinks. But in the poll most seemed to find having a grade-B quarterback was satisfactory. Maybe I'm spoiled by having lived through the five Super Bowl and other winning seasons, but I am NOT satisfied. Let me be clear. I like Alex, have great respect and admiration for his ability to persevere all of the termoil that the Niners have put him through, and I think that he's competent to a point. But the fact is that he's a "B", and what's more IMO, will never be more than an "B" ... he may get a little bit better, but will never be an "elite" grade-A QB in the NFL. I'm not throwing rocks ... it's just a fact. So what the hell do I expect? Simple ... I want a grade-A quarterback. Who are they? In my book there are currently four (one on IR) grade-A QBs in the NFL: Brady, Brees, Payton (IR) and Rodgers. Whoa! But what about Bradford, Cutler, Freeman, Flacco, Gabbard, Eli, Newton, Palmer, Ponder, Rivers, Roethisberger, Ryan, Sanchez, Alex, Stafford and Vick ... they're all first-round draft picks? Very true ... but they're all also "B's" or "C's" in my book. A different performance standard? Maybe.

In response to my comment about the poll, Dan Peterson asked the question "who is available that is a better option than Alex?" A very good question. And, although it won't be popular among the readership, here is my somewhat elongated answer:

First, grade-A quarterbacks don't grow on trees, they aren't born knowing how, they are DEVELOPED ... none of them came out of college being an A; however, it is my belief that you cannot develop an A unless the individual has been born with that potential. And, that birthright is very rare; you either have it, or you don't ... wanting it badly and working hard to get there (see Smith, Alex) will certainly enable one to improve, but, if you're not born with the special potential, you just won't get there. You have to be born not only with the physical attributes including a far-better-than-average throwing arm, the eyes to see what others don't, the mental capacity to absorb the nuances of the game and be able to exploit them, the fortitude and guts to continue to push when there's no energy left, and the downright love of the game that enables you "do it" regardless of the pressures and conditions, and the ability to enspire others to do the same. But it's more than all that ... these guys are "different". A very few guys have it "all". Some guys have all the physical attibutes but not the mental capacity to be an "A" (Jay Cutler and Cam Newton are examples). Other guys have the mental makeup but lack the physical prowess to get there (Kellen Moore is a perfect example). We're talking about the few guys who have ALL of the necessary potential. So how do you identify these guys with the "right" raw material to be developed? Ah ... the billion dollar question. Honestly, I'm not sure that anybody can define "it" precisely ... most football people describe it as "unique talent", whatever that is. What I do know is (1) it's very rare, and (2) when you see "it" you know it. Since it's so rare, scouts have to gamble that a particular guy MAY have "it" when they draft him ... and usually end up with a Joe Flacco or Mark Sanchez. But once in a great while a guy comes along and, after studying him thoroughly, you know ... he's got "it." And, when you have a chance to get one of those, do whatever it takes to get him because the next such guy could be a LONG way off. Understand, they have to be drafted, not signed as a free agent, because once a team has one there is only one way that they will trade or release him and that is if there is a huge risk that the player may not be able to recover from a serious injury (examples are Drew Brees and now Peyton Manning). If you want a grade-B or grade-C QB via free agency, that's doable but at a steep price. A grade-A? NFW!

I've watched thousands of professional and collegiate football games in the last six decades. At the professional level I have seen fewer that two dozen guys that I would classify as grade-A ... that group includes the four guys mentioned above plus Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Fran Tarkington, John Brodie, Roger Staubach, Warren Moon, Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Steve Young and John Elway. The guys not still playing have three things in common: (1) each was an A, (2) they personally made a difference in every game they ever played in, regardless of the supporting cast, and (3) they are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I've had the great pleasure to watch most of the collegiate games played by three guys who I KNEW would become pro-level A's BEFORE they played their first professional game: John Brodie, John Elway ... and Andrew Luck. I feel the same way about Luck that I felt about Brodie and Elway ... Luck is the ONLY collegiate QB that I've seen in the last twenty years that comes anywhere close to Elway as a collegian. Trust me guys ... every scouting report that I've read and every scouting service has Luck graded at their highest possible evaluation. These guys are NOT all wrong. Trust me again ... Luck will be an A within two years IF he doesn't get drafted by a team that can't give him the proper system, continued good coaching, and adequate protection so that he doesn't get maimed in the process. IMO Indy can't offer any of those things ... and his talent could be wasted, as Peyton's was in the early years. That is why I believe that the biggest single thing the Niners can possibly do to improve the team is to do whatever it takes to get the draft rights to Andrew Luck. And, I think that we are in a position to do that. Indy's roster is in shambles ... they need decent starting players, not draft choices to select unproven rookies. I would be willing to trade as many as a dozen players to get the #1 pick from Indy ... but I don't think that it will take THAT many. Accordingly, I would protect only 17 guys as being untouchable in such a trade: Akers, Bowman, Culliver, Vernon Davis, Hunter, Iupati, Jennings, Lee, Miller, Morgan, Rogers, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, Snyder, Sopoaga, Whitner and Willis. In my book, anybody else is "available" (yes, including Alex). You would be willing to blow up a playoff team roster to get one prospect? Yep. Because most of those guys can be replaced with relative ease. A grade-A quarterback? Not so much ... if there is any single lesson that we should have learned during the past ten plus years of quarterback roulette it's that A's are rare and they're not easy to get. When you get the chance to get one, you must go for it.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.

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