The 49ers’ current 5-1 record has been more than surprising. Although the 49ers are competing within a weak division, their 3-0 road record is more than impressive and has proven that they are not just winning their division because the other teams in the NFC West are so horrible. The 49ers’ defense has really carried the team and is the largest reason for the 5-1 record. The 49ers’ defense ranks 2nd in the NFL in points allowed per game at 16.2, they rank 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game at 74.7, 2nd in the NFL in touchdowns allowed at 9, and 2nd in the NFL in total points allowed so far this season at 97. Clearly, the defense is solid and can keep our offense in any game no matter what the score is. The one factor that could hold back the 49ers in the future is their offense.
Obviously, the fate of a team’s offense lies in the hands of their quarterback. Alex Smith ranks 26th in the NFL for passing yards, he is in a 6-way tie for 15th in the league for touchdowns thrown, and is tied for 24th in the league for completions. Although these stats appear pretty dismal, Alex Smith is surprisingly ranked 9th in the NFL for passer rating with a 95.2 and 9th in the NFL for completion percentage with 63.3%. Alex Smith is a bit of an enigma. He’s good enough to remain the starter, but he’s not good enough to ever be compared to the league’s elite quarterbacks. He will remain the starter throughout the season because Colin Kaepernick is not ready to become the everyday starter, and he probably won’t be for a season or two. The 49ers simply do not have any other options, and there are no potential free agents that the 49ers could target.
If the 49ers make the playoffs this season, Alex Smith will not be the main reason for that. Unless he has a stellar second half of the season, the defense will be the force that drives the 49ers to the playoffs. This season, Alex Smith was placed in the absolute best possible situation to succeed. Jim Harbaugh not only was a quarterback in the NFL for 15 seasons, but he also has proven to be a “players coach,” which means that he gets along with players easily while still commanding respect and authority. Harbaugh has coached some great quarterbacks, and he knows how to get the best out of all his players. Because of all these qualities, Alex Smith should be playing the best football of his life. Yes, Alex Smith has had seven different offensive coordinators in his NFL career. However, if he was good enough to be chosen with the #1 overall pick in 2005, he should be able to adapt. Seven different offensive coordinators requires a lot of adaptation, but he should have been able to rise to the occasion and at least begin to establish himself after his first few years in the league. After seven seasons, we are currently seeing the closest to the best form of Alex Smith we are ever going to see. With an outstanding coach practically tailored specifically for him, with solid teammates around him such as Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore, and with a defense fully supporting him, Alex Smith should have extremely strong stats.
Alex Smith’s stats might be strong enough to lead the 49ers to the playoffs, but is he the right quarterback to lead this team to the Super Bowl? Not even close. Jed York (49ers owner), Trent Baalke (general manager), and Jim Harbaugh have all stated that they don’t want to run a team that is satisfied with just making the playoffs. They all want to create and enforce a winning atmosphere. However, Alex Smith is not the quarterback that will lead the 49ers to multiple Super Bowls. If Alex Smith leads the 49ers to the playoffs, it would be a great and, yes, admirable accomplishment, however, this would not sanction him to become the “quarterback of the future.” The 49ers organization needs to be very careful this upcoming offseason. If the team makes the playoffs this season, then the organization still needs to consider if Alex Smith is the right quarterback for this team. In his seventh season, Alex Smith should be hitting his peak, and his stats aren’t exactly “peak-worthy.” Under the best possible circumstances, we are seeing the best Alex Smith that we will see, and he is simply not a strong enough quarterback to lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
I would truly enjoy if Alex Smith was able to prove me wrong this season. If you know me personally, you know that I hate to be wrong, especially when involving sports. In this case though, I would love to see him succeed and lead this team to the Super Bowl. This event is extremely unlikely, but it would be gratifying to see Alex Smith come full circle and regain the trust of the 49ers faithful by proving that he’s a winner. The second half of this season will be a key stretch for the 49ers. It will determine if they can make the playoffs and officially start the journey towards a consistent winning team, and it will begin and end with Alex Smith. Let’s see where he takes them.