Where did it all go wrong for Alex Smith?
Well it would seem that his concussion suffered in the tied game against St.Louis Rams a month ago, was the beginning of the end. Or is it?
He is ready to play now, in fact he was medically cleared ready the week after his enforced absence. But San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh decided to run, quite literally, with second year QB Colin Kaepernick.
Harbaughs decision seemed to be the right one as the new face in the huddle ran out impressive wins against the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints. This past week however, the wheels come off a little as the Niners offense stuttered somewhat and the Rams once again held them and this time ran out winners late in overtime. The brief look between the two passers as they left the field in the Edward Jones Dome, was almost one of “What happens now?”
The answer was forthcoming just a day later when Harbaugh announced that Kaepernick would indeed be the starter again this week, in the home game against the Miami Dolphins. A game which has now become very important as we enter the four games of the schedule. The Seattle Seahawks are just a game and a half back now, and with a trip to New England next week, and then to Seattle in week 16, San Francisco have to get back to winning ways quickly and in convincing fashion.
So why isn’t Smith back in control of the team’s offense?
He has held the team together this season, off the back of a strong 2011 where they almost made the Super Bowl. He’s never been a spectacular player, but does the right things at the right time. Of course he had a turbulent start to his career, but many now put this down to having to master many different types of offensive schemes as head coach changes almost meant coordinator changes at the club.
He came through this however, and was stronger on the other side. It seems no matter how well he played though he always had his critics. None more so it would seem as his current coach Jim Harbaugh. After all it wasn’t exactly a secret that the coach courted Peyton Manning in the biggest quarterback manhunt in recent memory. When Manning opted for the Denver Broncos, Harbaugh had no choice but to stick with what he had.
How does this play on a player’s psyche?
Many players would see this behind the scenes play very unnerving but Smith took it on the chin and played through this and had a career game in the season opener against the Green Bay Packers in a 30-22 win. And just a week before his concussion had led the 49ers into a 6-2 record and in control of the NFC West division. During this period he had his best day ever going 18 from 19 passes for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 24-3 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
With the first half of the season going well both statistically, and in the win column, it should have been enough to see him back under centre once declared fit enough to play. Since going out the team have gone 2-1-1. With Harbaugh coming out and naming his starter so quickly helps steady the ship and the team can prepare properly all week without a cloud of controversy hanging over them. You can’t help feel though that if it all goes wrong against the Dolphins, the head coach would have to backtrack and call Smith back into the line-up. Unless, he sees no future for Smith as his play caller.
This would then put Smith in the same position as Manning was last year, albeit under very different circumstances. The door would be wide open for him to leave, and many teams would be queuing up to secure his signature.