It’s all but official now. The Alex Smith era is over.
Looking back, it ended when he took a vicious hit on that awkward slide against the Rams. Well, maybe it ended when Colin Kaepernick, on MNF, floated a 60+ yard bomb into Kyle Williams’ streaking hands and we all said “Alex Smith doesn’t make that throw.”
Either way, after years of being the face of a failing franchise, he went out a winner. He went on to throw a touchdown on his last drive in a San Francisco uniform. His last full game was nearly perfect – 18/19. During his last season he played in the NFC Championship Game.
But his era still ended on an ill-advised slide on a relatively meaningless play. Nobody missed a block or took a cheap shot at him. He didn’t lay out for anything. He just… he just didn’t really slide right.
We had him as our starting QB for seven and a half seasons. Granted, all but two of them he shared considerable time with other QBs. At first it was “This is better than Tim Rattay.” But soon after he ceded playing time to what seemed like saviors, and they were… Troy Smith? Shaun Hill*?
And he was widely scorned and often booed.
But did he deserve it? The front office was in turmoil. Mike Nolan drafted him, and the Mike Singletary/Jimmy Raye regime followed. Nobody succeeded during those regimes. When given Norv Turner for a season, he progressed well. When Jim Harbaugh came in, he excelled. While he may not be good enough to carry a bad team on his back, he is good enough to win with a good team.
Now that the Alex Smith era is over, what happens to the position?
Somebody has to be the backup quarterback, and for a team with Super Bowl aspirations and an aggressive, mobile QB, that back-up QB has to be able to step in and win important games. As a fan with expectations that his team will compete for the championship next year, Scott Tolzien doesn’t inspire confidence.
Coach Harbaugh and his staff should take twin approaches to the quarterback situation.
First, they need to sign a free agent QB. My preference would be an athletic quarterback with a winner mentality. If Shaun Hill were five years younger
I’d sign him, but in lieu of that Seneca Wallace is available. His style of play would add continuity in the event Kaep gets hurt. Plus, he’s a versatile player who can contribute while Kaep operates as the QB.
Second, I look for the team to rein in Kaep’s running, especially against teams the 49ers are supposed to beat.
I hope 49er fans remember Alex Smith fondly. He dutifully survived the Mike’s, he never dishonored the franchise, and once they were in a position to win it all, he played well enough to win. Good bye Alex Smith, it was a pleasure!
*I’m a total Shaun Hill guy. Arm Strength? No. Accuracy? Basically. Awareness? Yes. Winner? Hell yes.