We've heard it over and over in recent years: The NFL is a Quarterback's league. A passing league, etc. Such importance has been placed on the QB position that many teams live-and-die by the performance of their QB each and every week.
Look no further than the 2011 Indianapolis Colts. Only winning less than 10 games twice in the Peyton Manning era, then suddenly losing nearly every game without him.
The contrast between the starter and the backup couldn't be more stark for teams who completely lean on their mega-superstar QB. Whereas a truly complete team with a good running game, defense and special teams can get by, maybe even go .500 with their backup QB...a team who relies so heavily on their QB making huge plays can find themselves suddenly unable to win against even the most downtrodden opponents.
The 2011 Chicago Bears started off 7-3 with Jay Cutler, who was injured in week 11, only to lose five of their last six games and be eliminated from playoff contention.
How have the Arizona Cardinals done since Kurt Warner retired? Not so good, eh? Case-in-point.
More after the jump.
As much as the 49ers are benefiting from solid performances by Alex Smith, the fact remains that they are a complete team. They run the ball effectively. Their defense is among the NFL's best, and their special teams has been huge in recent seasons, as well.
While none of us would want anything to happen to Smith, I feel confident that the team would still win plenty of games with Colin Kaepernick at the helm, due to the strength of the team as a whole.
They don't ask that the QB win them the game by himself. Sure, Alex Smith had to make some throws in close games last year, but he hasn't had to carry the team for the entire game when nothing else was working. The 49ers always get good performance from their defense and usually can run the ball on opponents. Even when the run game is stifled Smith is able to distribute the ball mostly via short and intermediate routes, taking care of the ball and matriculating down the field.
This is the 49ers blueprint for success.
The 2008 New England Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassel as the starter after Tom Brady went down with a knee injury in week one and was subsequently placed on injured reserve. They were 10th in the NFL in total defense (yards), eighth in points allowed, and sixth in rushing yards. The team finished 12th in passing yards and had only 21 passing TD's.
Another complete, well-coached team that survived the lack of uber-elite QB play.
We saw firsthand on Sunday what happens to the Packers when they don't get Super Aaron Rodgers throwing for 3+ TD's. The team has holes, holes that are covered-up by their QB putting up tons of points as the MVP of the league.
Sure, everyone would love to have an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady...but if it causes you to lose sight of deficiencies in other areas, if you have to completely rely on that guy, to live and die by his performance and/or health...well that's just a risky proposition to me.