As some of you may or may not know, I am now writing for RealFootball365.com & have been assigned to the 49ers. I've been offered a few college teams if I so choose, but I don't think I want to cover anyone, as it would be difficult to find games opposite OSU, and I won't miss an OSU game.
Normally I wouldn't post this in the NCAA Football forum, as it has absolutely nothing to do with the game or college football in general, but the people who post in this forum are the people I know (COG, Bomber, TrojanNole, M_DUB, DJWIll, Bronco, etc) on here.
Anyway, my very first article was posted this morning. You can find the article here or you can just read the text wall below.
One thing, this article was originally going to have the first part about cleaning house segued into a story about how the new players performed in their preseason game Sunday night, but there was a communication SNAFU and another writer covered the game, so I had to scramble and write the thing about Smith yesterday morning...that's why this is basically two separate articles.
So yea, I hope you enjoy the article, and any constructive criticism would be helpful and appreciated.
49ers' New Friends / Smith Should Start
When someone is greatly dissatisfied with their life, they clean house. They discard their old clothes and purchase new ones. They sever contact with friends and make a conscious effort to find new (hopefully better) friends.
"Out with the old, in with the new?"
Absolutely. Whatever it takes to get back into the right frame of mind for success must be considered...this much is obvious. However, one must not jump haphazardly into the fray at full speed. The potential for disaster is very real, and the probability of finding friends worse than the old increases exponentially as months turn to years, and years to decades. It's happened before. Just ask the Cincinnati Bengals . 14 consecutive years of bad friends? Egad! A coaching staff must take its time and carefully study and examine each detail of a potential change as one would do when contemplating the purchase of a diamond-encrusted Rolex from a New York street vendor. Thou shalt not be bamboozled by a phony!
With that in mind, Mike Nolan and his cradle of coaches have carefully selected individuals they feel will mesh with their overall philosophy. After all, the San Francisco 49ers are starting over. They have already rid themselves of many of their old friends. How many? Let's just say that if you were a starter for the 49ers last season, odds are excellent you're not wearing a gold helmet with the SF logo this year. Gone are longtime 49ers Fred Beasley (FB), Julian Peterson (LB), Andre Carter (DE/LB) and Ahmed Plummer (CB). Two young receivers (Rashaun Woods and Brandon Lloyd) were also victims of the house cleaning along with cornerback Mike Rumph. Former starting running back Kevan Barlow is gone as well.
Some of the new faces around camp are veterans Trent Dilfer (QB), Larry Allen (G), Antonio Bryant (WR), Taylor Jacobs (WR), Sammy Davis (CB) and Walt Harris (CB). Also entering the fold are highly touted draft picks Vernon Davis (TE) and Manny Lawson (LB) and a bevy of other talented players chosen last April, including one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft, RB/WR/QB Michael Robinson of Penn State. Out with the old, in with the new. Have the 49ers truly upgraded or simply restocked the shelves with more substandard players? That will be found out eventually.
Moving on, I know there is pressure in the NFL for a team to win immediately. I also realize that Dilfer is a capable quarterback and most likely gives the 49ers more of a chance to win now. The thing is, Dilfer is 34 years old and will only be around for another season or two, and to be honest, the 'Niners are not a year or two away from the Super Bowl. They're not even a year or two away from the playoffs according to many "experts" around the league.
With that in mind, it's time for Mike Nolan to put down the hook and allow Alex Smith to play every snap of every game this season to see if he can live up to his "first overall draft pick" status. It's important to see if Smith can get better from month to month in a full season as a starter. The key phrase here is, "and get better from month to month." Smith's progression is what people should focus on, not his overall numbers.
"But wait, aren't statistics the best way to judge the effectiveness of a quarterback?"
In a way, yes. But with young quarterbacks, the most important statistic is something most people ignore: PROGRESSION.
Take Carson Palmer, for instance. He did not start a single game in 2003, his rookie season. Instead, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis chose to go with veteran quarterback Jon Kitna (who wound up winning the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year Award) so Palmer could learn the system before taking over. In 2004 Palmer was named starting quarterback during the preseason. He was Cincinnati's No. 1 pick and the franchise quarterback, and Lewis knew it was his time to play.
Palmer responded by throwing 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions as the Bengals finished 8-8 for a second consecutive season. When you look at his overall statistics for that season, it's easy to take notice of his unimpressive 18/18 touchdown to interception ratio and say he had a poor season; however, when you look closer, his progression throughout the season is remarkable. Let's take a look.
September: two touchdowns / five interceptions.
October: three touchdowns / five interceptions.
November: eight touchdowns / six interceptions.
December: five touchdowns / two interceptions.
As you can see, Palmer continued to get better as the season went on, and anyone who watches football knows what he did in 2005 (32 TD/12 INT). Had Palmer been shuffled in and out of the lineup after a few bad games (the way Alex Smith was last season), it's quite possible he would have continued to struggle and been marked down as another Akili Smith or David Klingler by the Cincinnati fans and media. Marvin Lewis, however, did not let that happen. He showed patience and trust, and Palmer rewarded him for it.
(Something else worth mentioning is that Palmer's offense in 2004 was basically the exact same offense last season. Lining up around him was a Pro Bowl receiver, a 1,400-yard rusher, one of the best fullbacks in the league and a top-ranked offensive line...and he still didn't come flying out of the gate. The 49ers, on the other hand, have a rebuilt o-line, an unproven second-year running back and a brand new receiving corps. A premier offense they are not.)
Here's the thing, Smith needs to know his coaches have absolute faith in him. He must to be able to throw a few horrendous passes during the season and not have to anxiously glance at the sidelines to see if Dilfer is warming up. After all, the worst thing a quarterback can lose is his confidence.
At the same time, the San Francisco media and fans need to be patient and understand that he is going to struggle. Smith is not going to step into the game and morph into Joe Montana or Steve Young...or even Jeff Garcia. Those days are over. Gone.
Alex Smith, regardless of draft position, should not be asked to put an entire franchise on his back and lead it to 10 wins because, to be completely honest, the 49ers are not a 10-win team. They could be down the road, however, if Smith is given the time and patience he needs.