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Seven straight losing seasons are here to ring in the new holidays for all the 49er faithful. Yet again the 2009 San Francisco 49ers under new head coach Mike Singletary have failed to deliver a victory after knowing that every fabric and fiber of their being to make the playoffs was at stake here in Lambeau Field in Green Bay Wisconsin. Familiar centerpiece 2005 NFL draft choice quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed over by the 49ers for Alex Smith proved without any question in every collective brain that is a 49er fan that 49er ownership and management muffed on selecting the right man at the right time.
I'm sorry to report to all of you that Alex Smith out of the University of Utah and an Urban Meyer disciple is not the answer for us at quarterback and really never was. Both Scot McCloughan and Mike Nolan at that time made pivotal mistakes in agreeing in terms that he was the superior athlete and leader over then California's superstar collegiate quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was the honorary West Coast under center type quarterback that idolized the San Francisco 49ers while growing up similar to another extraordinary All-Pro Super Bowl quarterback that was passed over in the New England Patriots Tom Brady. Rodgers for all intents and purposes was a Bill Walsh student of the game of football.
We drafted the wrong guy folks. After the first half of this game Alex Smith had completed but only 3-of-7 passes for five total yards? He had been sacked three times for a loss of 12-yards and suffered from a quarterback rating of 50.3. He has successfully completed but only one first down in the entire first half of play and had netted 57 total yards of offense all together. Now I'll be the first one to stand up and say it wasn't all Alex's fault, but he is the undisputed leader of this offense and at some point in time he must be able to carry the team on his back in securing more than one first down within an entire half of football.
The Green Bay Packers under quarterback Aaron Rodgers had churned up 17 first downs, completed 22-of-31 passes for 274 total yards. He was never sacked because he was never really in any danger from our anemic pass rush and threw two touchdowns in the second quarter to secure a 23-3 lead over the 49ers at halftime. He had an impressive 119.6 quarterback rating and had a long 64-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings that added to the 362 total yards of offense that the Green Bay Packers racked up on an exhausted 49er defense.
Five passing yards folks at halftime are what Alex Smith had to show, and a time of possession that had the 49ers on the field for 7:28 to the Packers 22:32. Alex was under duress all during the half and for the most part the entire game, having been sacked three times and throwing yet again an ill advised throw that was an interception that was turned instantly into another Green Bay Packer touchdown. On the first 49er possession in the fourth quarter being down 23-10 and at their very own two-yard line after being pinned deep into their own territory, Alex Smith threw an ill-advised pass to a very well-covered Vernon Davis and was intercepted by Packers defensive back Nick Collins that set them up on our 11-yard line for a Ryan Grant touchdown to make it 30-10.
If you look at the film, Alex fails to see the entire field and his eyes get locked on a particular receiver. He fails to understand accurately either mentally or via communication where the receiver is going to be. Not so with Aaron Rodgers who tutored under future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre and who understands and appreciates a great offensive mind in Mike McCarthy as his head coach. On top of this the team had literally another bye week to prepare for the Green Bay Packers after beating the Chicago Bears on a Thursday Night Special on NFL Network.
Alex is tentative under center because he has a porous offensive line literally destroyed with injuries to left tackle Joe Staley and left guard David Baas. Even more so with less than average play from the weak right side in Adam Snyder and second-year man Chilo Rachal. The time clock in Alex's head has to mean something to him as many times as visualized Alex is penalized for delay of game. On top of that he is tentative still on getting rid of the ball and still unable to determine where some of the pass rush is coming from. In Alex's only defense I'd say I agree we need to draft and or acquire through free agency another offensive tackle and guard to force the line to gel collectively into a well rehearsed unit of excellence in both blocking and protection of the quarterback. This should be a top priority in the up and coming for us 2010 NFL Draft.
Alex in times of pressure can't make the right hot read as evidenced in the second half and being forced with a fourth-and-two situation at the Packers 28-yard line. He made a half-effort incompletion to Frank Gore that forced the 49ers to turn the ball over. And on rewind yet again the Smith interception in the fourth quarter was an indication that Packers defensive back Nick Collins read the eyes of Alex Smith under duress being backed up on the two-yard line and being focused on one hot read for Vernon Davis. Case in point he intercepted the pass with ease and again Alex put us in a hole that we would never be able to dig ourselves back out of.
Going with the spread offense to start the second half in memory of the Houston Texans game being down as much as we were, helped jump-start our offense to the point where we started to cling on to false hope that we could overcome such impossible odds but the many practice sessions and meetings Mike Singletary preached to his defensive backs to cultivate and force more turnovers like they did against the Chicago Bears fell on deaf ears.
We have a much larger issue at stake here I think when it comes to Mike Singletary and his philosophies and ideologies. He comes from the old school and says: "I want winners; I want people that want to win." Yet his perception on how the offense is executed is based largely in part on his mind as a power running attack that is supported by an opportunistic defense to keep scores close and tip game management to our favor. Win time of possession and keep their offense off the field.
In conjunction with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye who is now being put in reference to Jim Hostler who was anointed as our offensive coordinator under Mike Nolan, Singletary is trying to look at ways to spark something on our offense by using different looks and formations. But he is doing it only after we are buried under a scoring differential that is virtually a Hail Mary to get over? This mentality has to change as we acknowledge that more points on the board are better than a few.
We are not set-up to be a typical Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl team built to win with pure defense and just an adequate quarterback that makes very few mistakes and manages the game well like a Trent Dilfer. Sometimes I think this is what is stuck in Mike Singletary's mind but it is finally coming to fruition that this is not who we are or want to be. We have above-average offensive weapons that can't be utilized because both the offensive line and the present quarterback are simply inadequate to handle the job and simply execute at a higher level of expectation.
If Bill Walsh, George Seifert and Steve Mariucci ever all came together in a fantasy meeting I'd be a betting man to say that under the West Coast ideology Alex Smith is not nor ever will be the answer. Aaron Rodgers was and we passed on him. Had Aaron come in and developed under the likes of a successful Jeff Garcia I believe we would be a better San Francisco 49er team today. Even one that would've contended in the playoffs because we would be going back to what solidified our glory seasons by keeping the West Coast offense in tact. Mike McCarthy would concur I'm sure as well.
Our present day offense is broken. We are not simply just a spread offense that caters to the comfort zone of Alex Smith nor should we ever do that. We have to find balance and we need the personnel to get us there. We don't have that now, despite what even Singletary and others are telling us. We need a new offensive approach that was our old successful self to begin with. I'd love to see a Mike Shanahan and or a Mike Holmgren again.
Mike Singletary was an old friend of Bill Walsh. He needs to go back and find what worked then that will work now, rather it is a hybrid of his own or someone else's. I still have faith in Singletary as a motivator, spiritual guide and leader. I believe we can succeed only if he is willing to see that what is in front of him is broken. Alex Smith is not the answer but at the same time it will require more losses to validate that truth to others. A Nate Davis with a cannon arm and a known improviser under pressure would be nice to see right now.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.