Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sorry to Throw Cold Water on it - Alex Smith is Still Not the Answer

All 49er fans now know--along with the rest of the national NFL audience--how good the 49ers defensive unit is, especially when it doesn't have to spend 35+ minutes on the field. The 49ers defensive scheme--a filled spread formation which effectively cut off the short to middle route passing game at which Arizona QB Kurt Warner excels--worked to perfection, and could all by itself have promised victory--had the 49ers anything like a normal, effective offensive unit. But it took 2 interceptions and 5 fumbles for the Niners to overcome their division rivals, and here's the reason why:  Alex Smith.  


As I've been harping about for the last two months, Alex Smith isn't an NFL quarterback. He lacks the special qualities which all successful QB's must possess in order to be a winner. 
In Monday's game, Smith threw two interceptions. But the fact is, for those of us who were paying attention--not letting our surprised and delighted emotions cloud our judgment--that Smith actually "threw" four interceptions--the Arizona defenders just failed to catch those other two. How do you suppose the game would have turned out, had those other two balls been caught by the Arizona defensive backs?  
Even with 7 turnovers, the outcome was still in doubt as late as the middle of the fourth quarter. Credit the SF defense for putting pressure on Warner, and for taking away his first and second options on several plays; since Warner isn't a scrambler or an improviser like Rothlisberger, he can be neutralized if you can deny him his first target, since he doesn't move well outside the pocket. 
Much has been made of the "improved" San Francisco offense, since the team went with the shotgun or "spread offense" scheme under Smith. Singletary started the year using Hill, emphasizing the run. The fact is, that under Hill, the 49ers were performing much better, game on game, than they were with Smith. Why? Because Hill was a ball control quarterback. 
A lot of nonsense is thrown around about great quarterbacks. Certainly Peyton Manning is a great quarterback. So was Dan Marino. These talents excelled at throwing the ball often, and throwing it long. But consider the skills and approach of Joe Montana. Montana is credited with guiding the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories, and 12 years of glory. What kind of a QB was Montana? A ball control, short gain, opportunistic QB! The West Coast Offense, largely invented by Bill Walsh and utilized by him to produce all those wins for The City by the Bay, was designed to control the game through short passes, taking what the defense gave it, and generally avoiding the long downfield passes which were the hallmark of the wide-open style of some famous NFL offenses ("Air Coryell" et al). 
The fact is that the wide open offense is on the ascendancy in the NFL today. The West Coast Offense has largely been abandoned, as more and more teams feature a high-scoring, high-risk passing-oriented approach. And it's worked. Look at the successful teams today, and what you find is that ball control--a methodical offense built around 5 yards and a cloud of dust--doesn't work anymore. Successful teams today have to expect routinely to score 30 points or more, usually in high-scoring affairs where the last team to have possession wins. 
Singletary's retro vision of a smash-mouth, grind-it-out style was obviously passe. But with the world class defensive unit he's been blessed with, he could be forgiven for believing in the impossible. What might the 49ers have done with a truly aggressive, accurate, savvy mid- to long-range quarterback this year? There's been the usual excuse-making about Smith's shoulder injury, the difficulties of having to work with a different offensive coordinator each year--poor baby!--but the facts speak to other causes for his failures. There have been a few instances in which they've asked him to attempt the rare surprise long pass late in games--with disastrous results!--but on the whole, his shortcomings have been no one's fault but his own.   
But the fact remains, as anyone with unjaundiced eyes can see, Alex Smith isn't that quarterback. He repeatedly makes wrong decisions, throws into coverage, and can't find his second or third option. Is he gun-shy, flustered, or just phlegmatic? Does he "get it"--i.e., does he have sufficient gumption to respond to emergencies and crises the way superior athletes do in the clutch? It hardly seems so.
Singletary may be forgiven for capitulating to necessity, and trying to determine, once and for all, whether Smith can step in and perform at the high level required of successful NFL quarterbacks. But the evidence continues to mount: Smith isn't the man, and the sooner the Niners acknowledge that, and get to work replacing him with a superior talent, the sooner they'll be contenders again.     


Anonymous said...

i wish youd stop writing about this dreadful subject

dry balls

Curtis Faville said...

If they trade or demote Smith, I promise to stop.

Anonymous said...

and by 'subject' i mean "football"

while i'm making advisements:

silliman should never write again on:

1) baseball,
2) project runway,

i like your
beerbohm, eigner, & finlay

& his
grenier, zukofsky, & ashbery


Curtis Faville said...

Well, Anon, I'll throw you another loop. I really enjoy Silliman's blog, and there's hardly anything he writes about that doesn't seize my interest. At first, I thought Project Runway must be some tawdry fruity nonsense like Queer Eye, but then I checked it out and now my wife and I are big fans, watching the whole sequence of shows via our Netflix account. If you haven't seen it, give it a try.

jh said...

maybe i'd like football more
if some of the effort put into project runway went into snazzing up the teams i mean the costumes are soooo blassaise i think the television manifestation of the game would be so well enhanced if some real designers were there on the sidelines working with the boyz and fixxing them up a bit it would be a wonderful wonderful wonderful wonderful wonderful synthesis of style a sort of pleasant feminine covering over the brute male a sweetening of the overall affect and plus they could go out to dinner afterward and not really even have to change clothes although i am sure that once the whole thing got started they'd be changing clothes a lot wink wink wink wink wink

or maybe have at least a few segments in the fall of the designers on PR play some football in the mud and rain dress up in the most lavish ravishing things
and just go out and have some fun and get really dirty and play play play

i can't imagine anyone being bored in this country
with so much left to do

especially this time of year
with shopping and everything
and it's really not so expensive
i mean with a credit card and all

\live the spectacle
\\\//// why fight it


Anonymous said...


hate it

J said...

Actually Sir Faville, I'm tempted to agree with Anny re Foo-ball--that be the work of Babylon, along with most (all?) species of Ball (golf-ball perhaps the most egregiously f-ed up and corporate).

For that matter, Sillyman's lit-blog tends to reify Babylon (or shall we say zionist-capitalism) most of the time--as did the beats except for a few inspired nano-seconds. A bit of Kerouac say, once a year entertains a bit (though with boo-coo gloom); the others, well...

Curtis Faville said...

Boring people have simple characters--their interests and capabilities run in a single channel. Interesting people have many sides, seemingly contradictory, frequently frustratingly inconsistent.

If we're talking about Silliman, don't you get impatient from time to time with his maniacal mono-mania about Quietism and Avant? Wouldn't it be just cheerful to have him fall head over heels in love with a rhymster once in a while? How about Frederick Seidel? So naughty! So un-PC!


J said...

Well, yes, I detest the haiku-hooey (though enjoy a few of say Gary Snyder's sierra songs for nostalgia's sakes....), as well as imagist deco ala WC Williams-- tho' poet Im not. The few times I read poesy, I read like klassix, maybe Frost. Someone gave me a book of Roethke's verse and I enjoyed at least 105 of it. Or that amusing Diogenes Larkin (or E-Pound's greatest hits).

Contemporary stuff I don't usually get, except it's like about meaninglessness, fragmentation, alienation, ennui and so forth for the last 100 years or so. Gregor Samsa said much the same. Or ...Dostoyevsky in a rather grand style.

That said, I still think Foo-ball's Eevil, man--maybe not the game itself, but the commodification of Sport, if you will.

Curtis Faville said...

I think it is in some sense involuntary, like a preference for pancakes or sitting in saunas--something you acquired in a templated moment of susceptibility. Throughout my childhood Sunday afternoons were spent watching the NFL on television. Physically, I was too frail actually to play it seriously, though I spent hundreds of hours at touch football.

Is it a waste of time? You bet. But then, so is sex, and fine dining, and reading poetry. Life itself is sort of a waste of time--if you think too hard about it.

J said...

As I read mo' of Sillyman's blog , I get the sense he's merely a standard-issue liberal, sort of the Raum Emmanuel of lit-blogging, only a few baby steps away from Kirby O-like neo-con phunn.

Strict-lee commercial, as zappa would yawp, even when Sillyman's touting his latest chapbook discovery.

jh said...

we do not waste time
time wastes us

Anonymous said...

" Throughout my childhood Sunday afternoons were spent watching the NFL on television. "


you could justify sunday stonings with same line

& Silliman is a run-of-the-mill liberal who likes to APPEAR radical;