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(Kinda) Mid-Season Review: The Alex Smith Factor

The man who has befuddled SF fans and coaches for years now befuddles defenses!
The man who has befuddled SF fans and coaches for years now befuddles defenses!

Sometimes, as a Football fan, I am envious of Baseball statistics. I love Baseball for a lot of reasons, and one of them are the evaluative and predictive nature of Baseball stats. One can (and should, Sabean) look at certain stats and glean information about how a player will hit and produce, generally. So in Baseball, more or less, just look at the stats.

Football, not so much. I mean, there are good stats in Football - and I really think they will only get better. Instead of a team of highly trained monkeys under the purview of James "Buy-that-Degree" Franco, really smart people are doing really smart things to develop advanced statistics for Football. ESPN's new QBR is an example of kind of smart people trying to exemplify this trend; though I may quibble a bit with the finished product, at least Football is becoming more and more open to statistical analysis.

But for right now, it's hard to just look at the stats. But, before the jump, let's take a look at Alex Smith's:

  • 100 Completions in 158 Attempts, which is good for a 63.3 Completion Percentage.
  • He's thrown for 1,090 yards, going 6.9 yards a pop.
  • 8 TDs to 2 INTs with 3 Fumbles.
  • All this comes to a 95.2 Rating.

So what do the stats suggest about Alex? What should we think about his performance so far and what does that mean for going forward? If you are Trent Baalke, there's no way you aren't thinking about next year's options at QB with an obsessive compulsion that would put Adrian Monk to shame.

Much has been discussed about Alex this year. Is he a game manager? An elite QB (though only Kurt Warner is really thinking this)? Can he lead the team to a Super Bowl? Is he just playing in the system?

I'm not exactly prepared to give you answers to this. I could give my opinion, but really my opinion stems from the fact that these types of questions are even being asked. Look at the overall premise that coagulates behind these questions like a nice answered-filled jam and I think you get a good idea of what Alex has done thus far.

Alex has executed. Alex has done what the system and coaching staff ask him to do in order to win. Some, who count wins as the greatest stat in evaluating a QB (not me, for the record), look at this and assert that he is becoming a very good QB - if not elite.

Frankly, if anything is elite in this scenario, I think it is the coaching staff. They took a QB, who could not function under more inept coaches, and put him in a situation in which he can be successful. The team too. Elite or not; game manager or not; leader or not, I think all these methods of evaluation are somewhat flawed. What defines Alex so far this year more than his play is the system under which he is operating.

Thus, I would argue, in reviewing Alex at this point in the season is to evaluate the ways in which he is being used, not the way he plays. The stats say he is playing well. My eyes say he is playing well. Heck, I was talking to my grandmother on the phone the other night, and she even thinks he is playing well, but so what. So what? The fact is, I think Alex remains an enigma. I'm not even sure if a full season of play could really clear up my thinking.

Earlier this season, I indicated that Alex should be a one and done deal. One year and he is done. Get him in here until Alex can metaphorically hand the ball off to Colin Kaepernick. Because Jim Harbaugh is a genius, Colin will be ready in one year. That was my dream scenario. I never realized that Harbaugh was such a genius that he could turn Alex's career around. I didn't know that anybody could do that - not in San Francisco, at least.

So evaluating Alex this early is really just evaluating the coaching staff. But, he is doing so well, that he may be changing my mind on the one and done deal. He may. I'm not sure yet, so I won't vote in the poll below (but you should!), but good golly miss molly, if he continues to play this well through the season, I might have to think about wanting him back...