For the seventh straight year the San Francisco 49ers will polish up those golf clubs and participate in after the season activities rather then the postseason in which they were declared earlier in the season to be a part of once again under new head coach Mike Singletary. In a blizzard of epic proportions that hit the entire East Coast earlier the 49ers went on the road to Philadelphia only to play a lackluster effort in which they were eliminated from the playoffs after being soundly defeated 27-13. Four turnovers in the first half, three of which were interceptions by hand of Alex Smith helped Arizona clinch the NFC Western Division and sent us on a long plane ride back home.
Despite the excruciating loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in which we had even more time to be prepared for with our game being moved up to a 4pm start time rather than a 1pm start time due to weather concerns, the 49ers under Mike Singletary soundly endorsed quarterback Alex Smith for the 2010 season simply on the hypothesis that Alex had a bad game? Yet since Week four in which Alex has taken over, the 49ers have only won 3-out-of-7 games thus far on the season. Everything possible has been done from a coaching perspective to focus in on Alex's strong traits this season yet he has failed miserably to consolidate and articulate on them.
Finding our identity this season has been and continues to be a full-time expedition in which we have gone from every spectrum of the offensive philosophy in which to run more pass less, to pass more run less and now we are attempting to finally strike a balance; but in this game the weight again fell on the offensive line to hold up and it failed to do so allowing Alex to be sacked three times for a loss of 23 total yards and hurry throws that should've never been thrown.
The right side of the line in guard Chilo Rachal and tackle Adam Snyder continue to be an area of immense opportunity. The Philadelphia Eagle defense feasted on this weak link throughout the Sunday with Alex being unable to convert on third downs a total of 11 times for zero! He completed just 20-of-37 pass attempts for 177 total yards with one touchdown and a pathetic three interceptions. He ended his day with a lowly 42.3 quarterback rating signaling that he is once again inadequate to lead this team.
But somehow, somewhere amongst the coaches and the front office they believe the entire organization lives, breathes and dies with their 2005 NFL Draft first round pick in someway or another because of the endless endorsements of confidence they have in him resurrecting an offense that has seen a different coordinator each and every year and a quarterback that has had more chances then any cat depending upon it's nine lives to sustain itself. Alex Smith was put into an ideal situation to succeed this time around because of the collaborative efforts on the coaching staff to change the offense to fit his personal strengths and tendencies with his direct input and consideration in meetings with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and Mike Singeltary combined.
Out of the three interceptions Alex Smith committed, Mike Singletary blamed but one on Smith at all. The one he threw that links him to direct blame was the one he threw with just 36 seconds left in the half to Frank Gore in which it was intercepted having been overthrown in which linebacker Tracy White intercepted and resulted in the Eagles going up 20-3 at halftime. On the first interception Smith tried to connect with Vernon Davis down the seam and strong safety Quintin Mikell snatched the ball for an interception with Vernon looking on nonchalantly in which he was blamed and chastised for on the sidelines with Mike Singletary.
On the second interception Mike Singletary chalked that one up to a sneaky and well manipulative defense that outsmarted Alex on where they'd be when the ball was thrown to Vernon Davis and Eagles cornerback Asante Samuels intercepted. In all the Philadelphia Eagles cashed in on four turnovers with 13 total points. Regardless of Singletary's diagnosis some blame has to go on Alex for not reading where the safeties were on that throw and is inexcusable to not point some kind of finger at the person pulling the trigger on the ball to begin with?
The only bright spot in the entire offense was Frank Gore's ability to run the ball on 16 carries for a total of 107 total yards averaging 6.7 yards a carry. Wide receiver Josh Morgan had a stellar performance with 7-receptions-out-of-8 for 61 total yards and a touchdown. Alex Smith threw a lot of incomplete passes and balls away simply because he was under intense pressure to do so without taking a sack. He still struggles with identifying receiver routes out from under the center stance and getting his reads in quickly. It leads one to question his sincere ability to adapt to this type of NFL foundation in order to be successful from an Urban Meyer offense.
One can say Alex Smith is perfectly capable of playing and executing a better game then this and he has but only on occasion. How long can we subject ourselves to the endless mediocrity though? How much longer are fans willing to show even an inkling of moral support to a quarterback that seems stuck in his rookie season with just one bad throw after another that leads us to believe he throws as many interceptions as he does touchdowns? Of all the impressive weapons he now has at his disposal one would think that somehow out of all those weapons he would be able to establish some kind of synchronicity with someone that has a true endorsement of his ability? But Smith still seems like he is stuck in an endless cycle of playing in neutral and being unable to step-up to that next level in being a leader that can carry a team from simply time to time on occasion on his back rather then not at all.
President Jed York and General Manager Scot McCloughan must make a decisive decision based on fact that more intensive competition be in order for Alex Smith moving forward. He should not be named the uncontested starter in 2010 based upon the more than mediocre performances he has already been a major player in and the mere fact he fell flat on his face within a pivotal contest that was vital to our playoffs hopes and dreams in Philadelphia. Now rather that be a free agent quarterback or another take in the draft it must be addressed.
We cannot take our eyes off the defense either that played poorly especially in stopping the Philadelphia Eagles on third down conversions in which they converted 43% of them and 21 total first downs. The Eagles put up 422 total yards in net offense with 306 yards coming via the air and 116 on the ground against a stout run defense that wasn't there this day. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was able to find a variety of receivers especially in Desean Jackson that caught 6-of-10 receptions for 140 total yards and one touchdown. And when he couldn't find a target he instinctively used his own feet to secure yardage and a touchdown himself.
Can Alex ever rise above the average mess he always seems to be an intricate part of? How much time is needed to identify rather Alex is the answer or is he not? With just two games left against bottom feeding Detroit and St. Louis I still don't think we'll ever know at the conclusion of this season. Singletary should be very careful in his words when providing an endorsement for a quarterback that has never been on the winning side of things for his entire career minus out the aggravated injuries he has sustained over the years. I'm sick of the excuses when it comes to Alex Smith and our inability to see the writing on the wall.
Aaron Rodgers continues to make strides in Green Bay as if to remind ourselves of what may have been? Mike Nolan was convinced Alex had more sound fundamentals and overall intelligence for the job but has he displayed that with any kind of consistency? Finding a gem like a Tom Brady and or a Drew Brees requires a sound intellect for knowing quarterbacks like Bill Walsh always seemed to possess in one form or another. Scot McCloughan needs to start looking without ill conceived perceptions from others that think Smith will eventually come around. After all Scot was the second half responsible for bringing Alex to San Francisco, now he needs to be the bigger person to admit that maybe we need to re-evaluate who we have there because the signs are there for not going anywhere soon. Can we afford another season with no definitive answers?
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.