The Resurrection of Smith

In my previous blog, I discussed the 49ers QB competition between the unproven Smith and rookie Kaepernick.  After a slow start to training camp, Smith made strides to lock his job as the starting QB.

In this blog, we will reveal how Smith has managed to resurrect his career with the assistance of an offensive Guru.

With an unproven QB taking over the 49ers offense, with a new offensive system and head coach, the Niners offense were surely going to have it’s limitations in efficiency, right?  Surely this would be the case for most NFL quarterbacks in the league, but for Smith, being tough as nails, no setback was apparent.  Smith right now is coming of his career best season, throwing 15 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions, while having a QBR of over 93%.  One might wonder why Smith has had a career saving season, and the answer is there are multiple factors regarding to Smith’s success.

The Jim Harbaugh Factor

Jim Harbaugh, now the Head Coach of the 49ers, was a Quarterback in the NFL for 14 years, then went on to having a successful coaching career at Stanford University.  Previous coaches of Smith had been defensive minded, such as Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary.  Each coach did not posses their own offensive strategy and heavily relied on their offensive coordinators to lead their offenses.  The problem that occurred from this, was each of the previous seven years that Smith played under these coaches, they brought in a new coordinator, therefore not allowing Smith to progress in his development.  With Jim Harbaugh as a Head Coach, now Alex can, and has been able to live with stability.  If Harbaugh does decide to find a new offensive coordinator in the future, his offensive style will not be changed, since Harbaugh is an offensive minded coach.

Rather than just being a great Head Coach, Harbaugh has been a great mentor for Alex as well.  As i discussed in my first post, Harbaugh speaks highly of Smith, and from this has risen Smith’s confidence as a player.  Since Harbaugh knows the QB position better then anyone in the 49ers organization, he has been a great mentor to Alex’s progression this season.

Alex Smith’s Confidence

Watching old press interviews of Smith will reveal that he never seemed truly confident.  While he has always been tough, and never quit on plays, his previous coaches had never put him in a position to truly succeed.

So far this season, Alex is playing with an extra chip on his shoulder.  He is never putting his team in bad positions by committing football errors out on the field, he has commanded his offense as a true leader, and at the same time having the most fun of his seven year career.  Alex, 27 years old, is young by age, but a true veteran by experience.

Throughout his playing career, the 49ers have never had a winning record.  While many want to jump in and point their finger at poor QB play, first look who is really at fault.  Those who critique the QB position as the fault of the offense are correct, but it is not truly the QB who is at fault.

Since Smith has been in the 49er’s organization, he has been forced to make something out of nothing.  In the first few years of his career, the only true offensive threat we had was running back Frank Gore.  However, our offense had been put in many situations where they are down multiple touchdowns, and we cannot use the running game to get back into the game.  Therefore, in these many situations, Smith had been forced to throw into strong coverage just to get his team in the game.  By using this approach, you are essentially shooting yourself in the foot.  Smith in recent weeks has told reporters that early in his career, his coaches expected him to win games and command his offense when he was not ready to do so.  As a young QB in this league, you are not expected to win right away, instead good Head Coaches put their young QB into positions where they cannot fail, such as Harbaugh has done this year.

For an example of Smith being put in a situation to create something out of nothing, and being blamed, (for his coach’s failure), watch this video below:

Fast forward to this season, we see that Smith has had his lowest amount of turnovers, highest completion rating and best QBR of his career.  Smith, as well as NFL Analysts, will quickly point the cause of his success to Jim for allowing him to grow his confidence and make plays that are available, rather than fail to create something out of nothing.

How are the 49ers with Smith 2.0 this season?

With a revitalized Alex Smith, the 49ers have just clinched the NFC West, for the first time in over eight years.  They now stand on a 10-2 record after their 26-0 defeat against their division rivals, the St. Louis Rams today.  Smith production has been outstanding this season, and has proven to be a clutch quarterback in game winning situations.  The only fault to his, and the offense as a whole, would be their lack of red-zone productivity.  While Smith has one of the best red-zone ratings in the league, the offense still struggles to get touchdowns, and is often settling for field goals.  As a result, place kicker David Akers is on pace to break the 49er’s all-time field goal record with completing 32 on the season.

Click this to glance at all of Smith’s statistics.

With another side-note, Frank Gore has just broke past the 49ers all-time rushing leader Joe Perry.  Gaining 73 yards on the ground today,  Gore is now the 49er’s all-time rushing leader with 7,396 career rushing yards.  Also, Pro-Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis had to leave the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury.  The extent of the injury is unknown, while backup Larry Grant proved to be a valuable addition to this defense, backing up Willis the remainder of the game.

Conclusion to my three posts

This Video sums up Alex’s Smiths Career perfectly:


Alex Smith:Training Camp Perseverance

With Niner fans yearning for new blood at the QB position, turning the position over Colin Kaepernick appeared quite reasonable.  Excited by his phenomenal NCAA career at Nevada, and non-committal to a potential Alex Smith return, we assumed with little doubt that the job was Kaepernick’s to lose.  However, Alex Smith, who was trusted by the new coaching staff, but not us fans was immediately handed the starting job following the end of the NFL Lockout.  This led us to believe that Harbaugh was not about to welcome another training camp QB battle. However, He was slightly behind after missing the first initial six practices of training camp because the new labor rules for free agents delayed when they started their workouts.

Smith preformed well throughout his first week of practice under Harbaugh’s new offensive system.  However, he had issues converting his practice performance into game time consistency.  This inconsistency brought back bad memories of recent years and forced Harbaugh to allow a QB competition.

In an effort to tone down the anticipated QB competition, Harbaugh decided to announce to reporters that every position on the Niner’s roster were in an open competition.  Veteran players such as Vernon Davis saw right through the smoke screen and decided to give his input regarding to Kaeprnick “He’s a good player. He has a lot of potential, a very good future. I don’t think there’s too much competition at the moment.”  This comment by Vernon was not intended to shoot down the morale of Kaepernick, but instead to raise the moral in Smith.

Fast forward a few weeks, and we saw that both QB’s have not produced efficiently throughout the preseason games, yet Smith would consistently have great practices and Kaeprnick continued to share time with the first string offense. “If you were going by today, yesterday, there’s some separation there, and Alex has done a fine job,” coach Jim Harbaugh said Tuesday night after practice. “But Kaep is doing a phenomenal job. He is going to be one heck of a talent and one heck of a player.”  These mixed messages did come with a surprise with Harbaugh later acknowledging that Smith has in-fact widened the lead at the QB position.  The video below will reveal the beginning point of separation in the competition.

At conclusion the conclusion of the training camp position battles, Smith with little shock towards the end of the competition, came out victorious.  While raising the confidence between him and his teammates through strong practices, he did little to improve the hope of the 2011 season after performing sub-par in preseason games.     Readers, you will find out in my next blog if going with Smith over the rookie Kaeprnick was the right decision to make.  I’ll give you  little hint, it was!

If you are interested in seeing Kaepernick Highlights from Nevada, then watch the video below:


In Smith We Trust

Alex Smith, originally a #1 draft pick selected by the San Francisco 49ers, has revitalized his career this season.  We all were so sure of his departure by the season’s end last year, that a first round QB investment seemed fairly reasonable.

However, the newest member of the 49er’s Coach Jim Harbaugh, was not ready to give up on Alex.  After a controversial offseason, Alex Smith, shining with newborn confidence, re-signed with the 49ers and isn’t looking back.

Harbaugh was not ready to take over as the new Head Coach without meeting with the team’s, now free-agent, QB.  Before watching any film on Alex, Jim asked Alex to meet for the day with him.  Alex, most likely confused by this request, accepted the offer to meet with the new head coach.

Jim now says that he wanted to make sure Smith was still willing to compete as their QB, before he invested time in watching film.  It appeared that their meeting went well, once reporters had spotted Jim and Alex throwing the old pig skin around at the 49ers training facility.

Harbaugh, being an ex-NFL QB in the league for 15 seasons, knew the struggles it took for a QB to get into rhythm.  Taking himself 7 years to evolve into a Pro Bowl QB, he was aware that it was not time to quit on Smith.

Throughout the 2011 offseason, the NFL was in a nasty lockout, which lasted until July.  This meant that players and coaches could not meet, or contact each other.

This could of destroyed Harbaugh’s latest push to become best pals with Alex, but as we see throughout this current season, Jim had a trick up his sleeve.

Since Jim was not able to make comments about players ON his team’s roster,(Alex Smith was technically a free-agent).  Jim would constantly make interview appearances, giving praise to Alex Smith for his toughness, accuracy, and competitiveness.

Week after week, we would here how great Alex was, and were quick to judge Harbaugh as delusional.  Even the NFL became sick of Harbaugh’s consistent praise, and demanded that he speak no more about Smith, while the lockout remained.

NFL Analyst Paul Barker, speculates the 49ers QB situation a few days before the NFL draft in the video posted below.

Flash-forward to Day 1 of the NFL draft now, the 49ers are on the clock at #7 on the draft board.  The moment of truth to call Harbaugh’s bluff arises and the 49ers select Smith!… Aldon Smith, a defensive end out of Missouri.  However, with this defensive pick, it showed fans that the Niners had in fact gone with Alex Smith at QB as well.

By investing in the defense and not with a rookie first round QB, Alex remained in their QB picture.

Moving on to Day 2, Fox Sports news reporter, Alex Marvez, summarized; “A federal judge on Monday granted players an injunction to lift the NFL lockout. Judge grants injunction to lift NFL lockout; owners appeal.” This NFL lockout lift meant that players could now resume contact with their coaches.

(To follow the rest of the article by Alex Marvez, click this link.

Quickly jumping on this lift, Alex and a few current 49er players at the time, picked up Harbaugh’s playbook from the facility at Santa Clara.  Within hours after Smith picked up his playbook, the 49ers drafted QB Colin Kaeprnick, with their second round draft pick.

Now this really confused us 49er fans.  Smith just picked up a playbook, while we just drafted a QB to potentially start the 2011 for us.

Smith did not seem discouraged, as he conducted his own mini-camp, which reporters called “Camp Alex.”  With no coaching assistance for the team’s new West Coast style offensive playbook, Smith took over as an interim coach.  Conducting private offensive meetings, and on the field practices at San Jose State, Smith was starting to build confidence and respect of his fellow players.

This camp in late May, was a huge confidence booster for Alex as he showed his fellow future teammates, that he could lead them as their captain.  After a few weeks into his self-run training program, Smith’s teammates constantly praised his performance similarly, to what Harbaugh’s claims were.

At the end of the lockout, the Niners instantly offered Smith a new 1-year contract, and what seemed to be, the keys to the QB position.

Stay posted for my next blog, which will feature the 49er’s potential training camp QB controversy featuring Smith and Kaepernick.

Preview of next weeks blog topic:


Browns vs. Niners Game Day MVP’s

The San Francisco 49ers played a home game against the Cleveland Browns today, 10/30/11, at 1:15pm.  Going into the game, the Niners were given a +8.5 spread over the Browns.  Personally I felt that the spread was too large, and could potentially affect the players’ ego to take this game seriously.  However this was not the case as the 49ers started the game strong.  Due to the contribution of a few game day M.V.P’s, the 49ers produced big when needed, and showed their mental toughness by playing aggressive in all 4 quarters.  At the end of the game the 49ers chalked up a W for the score sheet, and won 20-10 against the Browns.

Game Day M.V.P’s:

Frank Gore- Frank had another spectacular game, ending it with a career high, 31 rush attempts and passing Roger Craig for #2 on the 49er’s all-time rushing yard list.  As you may know, Roger Craig was the 49er’s featured running back during the great 80’s, when the Niners won 4 Super Bowls.  This landmark performance for Gore also just so happened to be his 4th straight 100-yard rushing game of the season.  After we all were about to jump off the Gore bandwagon, after 3 sub-par performances in a row, Frank has impressed us all with his 4th straight 100-yard game.  Click link for Gore’s 26’s yard run.

Braylon Edwards- Although Braylon completed the game with a less impressive performance than Gore, with completing 4 receptions for 42 yards; I am still impressed by his determination to stay active in the game.  After tearing his meniscus in his knee, during the 2nd game of the season, and undergoing surgery, Braylon made the effort to bounce back and make it to the teams starting roster against his former team, the Browns.  This game was more of a redemption game for Braylon, and he proved worthy, guiding his team to critical first down plays with his limited pass targets.

Ahmed Brooks- Brooks made an immediate impact on the Niners’ defense, as their designated pass rusher.  Quick of the snap, on the first passing play of the game, Brooks beat opposing lineman to capture a sack, with a bonus forced fumble on the play as well.  Following his forced fumble, the 49ers were allowed to snatch their first TD of the game.  Although commonly overlooked, Brook’s run defense contribution also helped stop the Browns running attack, and only allowed an amateur 66 yards on the ground. Check link for ‘Sack Fumble’ play.

Offensive Linemen- Last but certainly not least, the 49er’s entire offensive line proved once again to be a dominant force up front.  Whether it was creating big holes up the middle to allow gore to pick up big-time yardage, pass protecting Alex Smith from the #4 rated defense in the league, or going out on passing routes to help complete a 3rd and long, the line produced big.  This front 5, and additional back up players are proving to be a solid investment for years to come.  They allowed the 49er’s rushing attack to pick up a solid 174 yards on the ground, while only allowing 1 sack against Smith, which wasn’t even technically their fault.  On the sack, smith fumbled the ball, forcing him to dive on top of it, which allowed defenders to take credit for a sack.

To watch the game’s complete Game-Day highlight, click the link.

(Unfortunately, Jamie Dukes is still hating on Alex Smith in the team highlight video)


49ers Offseason: QB Commitment

As you may be well aware of, the 49ers are on there hottest season start since 1997, with a record of 5-1.  After being called out as underdogs, mostly due to the NFL lockout, they are now sitting as the ‘top dogs’.

Due to the NFL lockout, players were not allowed to have contact with any NFL teams this offseason. Players and the Commissioner were stuck in negotiations from March until late July.  This period of not contact with players made gave teams with new head coaches, like the 49ers a disadvantage.  During the offseason events such as free agency, NFL draft, and mini camps were jeopardized for the 49ers, as well as every team in the NFL.

Alex Smith, the current 49ers QB, finished the final season of his contract last season, and was almost certain of a fresh start on another NFL team.  After completing a less than stellar season in 2010, with a fired head coach and offensive coordinator, Smith only assumed the worst for his future with the team.  However, Jim Harbaugh was not gonna let that happen.  With almost every fan and front office member giving up on Smioths future with the Niners, Harbaugh gave praise to smith for his accuracy and toughness.

Within weeks of being signed by the 49ers as Head Coach, Harbaugh invited Smith to have a pass around, with the former QB and current Head coach.  What seemed like a random event by Harbaugh, turned into constant weekly shout outs to the Media, giving praise to Smith.  Lets face reality, we all thought Harbaugh was going crazy with his praise of Smiths accuracy and awareness on the football field.  When I heard these type of comments, I, as many, assumed Jim never saw footage of the Smith we knew.

Video Link

With the NFL draft coming up in April, and Smith not signed with the 49ers, NFL analyst had concluded with the Niners ending up with a rookie QB in the first round.  Although Harbaugh had insisted that Smith was their guy,  Analyst believed that this was just a smoke screen to help the Niners snatch a QB early in the draft.  However, they opted for a linebacker instead and drafted highly touted QB Colin Kaepernick instead in the second round.  With a random turn of events, the same day a judge declared the lockout to be invalid, so the NFL temporarily aloud NFL teams to have contact with their players.  Quickly, Smith, who was not even technically on the team, was given a playbook by Harbaugh.  Later that same day the lockout was back on, and left Smith with the Playbook, with no coach to teach to him.

Entering May, Smith, equipped with his playbook, decided to organize his own minicamp with his future 49er teammates.  Ironically the majority of players who attended were defensive, leaving smith with very few offensive players to build chemistry with.  After a rough attendance level the first week, a surge of players started attending the camp that was being called ‘Camp Alex’ by NFL analysts.  Smith every morning would hold a receiver meeting with his teammates, and would go over plays from the playbook in his own interpretation, with no assistance from a coach.

During ‘Camp Alex’ superstars such as Vernon Davis, declared Smith’s rise in confidence during their offseason camp.  This self held mini camp must have allowed smith to demonstrate his control on the offense without having a defensive minded coaches, such as Singletary, criticizes his skills.

The leadership demonstrated by Alex during this camp, has allowed him to conquer issues that have plagued him throughout his NFL career.

With Smith starting the offseason with a sense of uncertainty for his future with the Niners, Harbaugh quickly made it his job to win over Smith in order to obtain him once the offseason lockout ended.  With instilling his confidence in Smith through the usage of media, Smith was able to find confidence within himself.  Smith confidence shined during ‘Camp Alex’ and has never stopped.  Every week, during this season we are reminded of Harbaugh’s geniusness for keeping Smith as QB, by being rewarded with Smiths constant improvement every week.

After overcoming adversity with a new offensive system, head coach, and no official offseason, the Niners have shown their toughness and commitment to Harbaugh and his reborn QB, Alex Smith.


49ers Challenge Status Quo

A common misconception in the NFL is that teams need to rack up gaudy numbers on offense in order to achieve victories in this league. The 49ers obviously don’t believe in this status quo, posting just above 200 overall yards a game, which puts them ranked last in the NFL stat books. However, they still remain 2-1, with being on the verge of a 3-0 start that slipped away from their reach.

One might ask; what is the formula to the 49ers early success this season? Their early season result could possibly be directly tied to the fact that they are playing conservative. In my view, by racking up so little yardage, and showing no interest of having breakout games every week, shows us fans that coach Jim Harbaugh’s commitment and belief in his game plan.

As a side-note, conservative offense play, can only be achieved if your team’s defense is SOLID.  However, focusing on the offensive side of the ball in this blog, we will have to assume that defense is not a factor on the offensive game planning.

In the past, we had coaches such as Mike Singletary and Mike Nolan, which were delusional coaches.  While having similar approaches to running their offense as Harbaugh, their commitment levels ran short.  Instead, when they game got intense, these two coaches would completely change their game plan from a conservative approach in the first half, to an offense that was not tailored to the team’s skill set in the second half.  Thus fulfilling their own prophecy by following the status quo of trying to rack up big yardage and failing to achieve a victory.

Jim Harbaugh explains his game plan vs. the Bengals in a Post-game conference link.(Video)

In order to truly win in this league, teams need to win the turnover ration rather than the yardage ratio.  And one-way to win this is by playing conservative. By playing safely over the past 3 games, the 49ers have won 2 games and at the last-minute lost 1 game. In each of these games, the 49ers QB, Alex Smith had above 90%, which is highly dictated by the amount of turnovers a QB throws. However, with this high QB rating, Smith never posted gaudy numbers that would gain himself high fantasy football points, but instead he played smart in these games, which kept his team in the game.  Since Smith and the offense haven’t been put into a situation yet where the offense is in catch up mode, there has been no need to venture out of their game plan yet.

When a team decides to go for the money shot, which is heaving the ball downfield for a Hail Mary type play, then they are more likely to throw an interception or get incomplete passes. The benefit of these plays result in big-time stats and big plays, but the downside is a higher rate of incomplete passes and interceptions. Smith has occasionally thrown this deep ball this season, but his repertoire usually consists of quick hits for 10 yards.

In this link, the SF Gate explains their view on the 49er’s conservative approach.

The 49ers Game Plan Summary:

1. Throw deep when needed! Only.

2. Run the ball, even if there’s an 8 man box

3. Make them beat us, instead of beating ourselves (don’t shoot yourself in the foot with turnovers)

4. Let solid defense and special teams help take some load off the offense

5. And finally, make Alex Smith look good, which makes Harbaugh look good, which gives the Niners a ‘W’ on the score sheet.

This 49ers game plan has allowed for their early season success and does not appear to be altered in the near future.  Let it be known however, winning on special teams and defense, allows your offense to choose a conservative or aggressive approach to their game plan.

To see 49ers vs. Bengal highlight from last weeks game, watch this video:

This video demonstrates the 49er’s cautious approach throughout the game.


Familiar Faces in New Place

The similarities between the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals are masked only by different uniforms.  Both teams have many ties between players.  This list includes Justin Smith, Manny Lawson, Taylor Mays, Nate Clements, and Donte Whitner.

The 49ers and Bengals have ties between players that date from the 2010 NFL draft.  Where Taylor Mays, an athletic freak, was pursued by the Bengals last year as seen in this link, to only be shut down by the 49ers who swooped in to draft him ahead of the Bengals.  After a down season last year and a new coaching staff, the 49ers had decided to trade him.  ‘Shockingly’ the Cinccinati Bengals pursued a trade with the Niners and aquired him this offseason.

However, Mays is not the only defensive player acquired from the Bengals this offseason that was on the Niner’s roster last year.  In the 2011 NFL Draft, the 49ers acquired Aldon Smith, a projected outside linebacker for their 3-4 defense.  Immediately after this acquisition, it was made obvious that they had no desire to retain previous linebacker, Manny Lawson who was forecasted to test Free Agency.

Manny Lawson, was an outside linebacker, drafted #22 in the 2006 NFL draft by the San francisco 49ers, in a trade between New England and them.  High expectations were put in place for him to become the next Demarcus Ware or Terrell Suggs.  However, expectations were never met, as he only recieved 14.5 sacks over a 5 year period.  His highest sack total reached 5 in 2009 and had another down year in 2010.  This summer, Cincinnati, needing a pass rusher picked up Manny Lawson for a bargain of a deal.

Lastly, Nate Clements, The 49ers blockbuster deal cornerback, acquired in free agency in 2007 from the Buffalo Bills, is the third defensive player from the 49ers defense last year to be on Cincinnati’s roster this year.  Nate Clements signed an eight year 80 million dollar deal with the niners back in 2007, and was seen as their potential all-star secondary player.  However, like the rest of the players in this blog, he never reached expectations, often getting beat by elite Wr’s.  Rather then pay out his mega deal for an average preformance, the 49ers decided to release him this offseason.

The Bengals had lost their Pro bowl Cb to free agency and was missing a hole in the secondary.  Quickly after his release, he signed with the Bengals and is now starting for them.

Roy Williams, a Strong Safety for the Bengals last year, never met up to his expectations this previous year.  He was released back a month ago in August.  The Bengals were close on finishing a deal with up and coming star Donte Withner, who was testing Free Agency to cash in on a mega-deal.  However, last minute, although everyone including Whitner thought he’d be on the bengals, his Agent and the 49ers made a back-room deal and signed him.

As for the Offensive side of the ball, the 49ers drafted Colin Kaeprnick one spot after the Bengals drafted Andy Dalton.  Rumors have been flaring the past week saying that the 49ers actually wanted to draft Dalton but the Bengals swooped in to steal him from them.  Dalton is starting this Sunday, while Kaeprnick is backing up Alex Smith.

Here is the Preview for the Game on Sunday here—http://www.nfl.com/videos/auto/09000d5d822795c2/Week-3-49ers-vs-Bengals-Preview