Can Alex Smith Become Elite?
By Jerrell Richardson
The fact that Alex Smith has been nominated for the FedEx Air Player of the Week in reality means very little. The award is just another one on a long list of awards that a NFL player can win week-to-week, but for Smith to even be considered as the top passer in any given week would have seemed impossible just two years ago. Although he has never won the award, this is the 3rd time, (twice last year) that he has been nominated, showing that Smith is not only putting it all together, but he is doing it on a consistent basis. The questions now in front of Smith are how much better can he get, and can he win a championship to be considered an elite quarterback?
FedEx Air Player of the Week Nominee
In 2011, when nominated for the FedEx Air Player of the Week, Smith was beat out both times by Green bay Packers quarterback and NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. This time around, Smith’s numbers are second to none, but his competition is New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who both were involved in emotional victories that will make them sentimental favorites to win the award. Regardless of if wins or not, the focus should be on the transformation of a player who seemed more likely to be on a list for greatest NFL draft busts, to a player who finds himself on a list with Brees and Rodgers .
Alex Smith had the best season of his career in 2011, leading the 49ers to a 13-3 regular season record and the NFC Championship Game. Despite barely missing out on the Super Bowl, critics still felt that Smith was riding the coattails of his defense and would never be the difference maker (in a good way) for his team. This year though, Smith has continued to make huge strides in his development and as of right now, outside of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, there is no QB who is playing better then Smith.
His numbers speak for themselves. He leads the league in QB rating with an astounding 108.7. His 68.6 completion percentage is 4th in the league and his eight touchdowns passes is a modest 7th in the league, but he has attempted so much fewer passes then those with more, and outside of Matt Ryan is the only one with a dominant running game. The biggest stat though is that he has thrown only one interception, proving that he recognizes the importance of ball security. There is still plenty of room to improve as when considering that Smith is working with two new receivers and has yet to develop the timing and chemistry that will make them a cohesive unit. Although the team is ready to win now, the sky is the limit for where this offense can go.
Smith’s recent play has made it clear that he is capable of carrying the team if needed. However, he also has shown that he does not have the reckless, gunslinger attitude that so many quarterbacks play with. Smith recognizes that he has a complete team around him and sometimes the smartest play is to not force the ball into coverage and let his punter, kicker or defense do their jobs. He trusts his team, and he seems to have gained the trust of both the players and coaches. The combination of a complete team, along with a quarterback who has the talent and football IQ to take care of the ball, is a blueprint for success. If Smith and the offense can continue to improve, then Smith may very well find his way into the elite conversation.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.