For all the haters (and fence-sitters) this has to be a tough time. There were thousands of fans banking on Alex Smith being the biggest problem with this team lo these past 6 years. 2005. The year that brought Teflon Mike Nolan, a 20 year old Alex Smith, Frank Gore, and Adam Snyder (among others) to the 49ers. Alex Smith’s star-crossed, injured, and angst-ridden time here in the City by the Bay has been rocky at best.
Alex Smith was thrust into the starting spot in week 4 of the 2005 season due to injuries to Tim Rattay. He then struggled through that season, but went 3-4 as the starter, and missed 5 games of his own due to a knee injury. His 2nd season saw a new OC in Norv Turner and general improvement across the board. 2007 was the beginning of the struggles that would do him in for 2 seasons. 2008 and 2009 saw the jettisoning of Mike Nolan, Jim Hostler, JT O’Suckagain, and Mike Martz. In their place were Aluminum Mike Singletary and Jimmy-Hat Raye. The Niners were competitive, and were robbed by Favre one last time, but ended up in 2nd place at 8-8. Smith’s numbers were still imcrementally improving, but the natives were still restless.
Then the wheels fell off for Singletary much like they did for Nolan. The 2010 season that was supposed to be the triumphant rise of the 49ers instead started with a 5 game losing streak, the firing of Jimmy-Hat, and the mind-numbingly bad coaching of Aluminum Mike, and the revolving carosel that became the QB position. Troy Smith got some starts around Alex getting hurt, David Carr-wreck’s uninspiring half vs Carolina, and Mike’s benching of Alex yet again.
Fast forward to the present. Alex Smith is the 7th rated QB in the NFL. He’s now on the Comeback Player of the Year list (with Tony Promo, Steve Smith, Matthew Stafford, and Jermichael Findley), and the league is grudgingly giving him the respect due him. As late as last week, Justin Tuck was calling the 49er game plan one that pussy-foots around Smith, instead leaning heavilly on Frank Gore to move the ball. After Smith beat them, Tuck’s tune changes some. And, (shock of shocks) contract talks have at least been on the radar for the newly annointed team leader (not so much a coach-killer now).
Sure, there are still plaenty of haters out there. People who are waiting for the team to fail so they can pin it solely on the quarterback. Well, teams win as a group, and they lose as a group. For years, all the blame has been placed squarely on Smith’s shoulders. If that is true, then these 8 wins belong there as well. The reality is, coachng had a LOT to do with the crapitude of this team. From Nolan and Singletary’s reluctance to to much more than run up the gut, to the revolving door at OC, to the numbingly retarded offense of Jimmy-Hat Raye, we are finding out that there really was a talented QB in Alex Smith. Whatever this year brings, it has been a revelatory experience watching Harbaugh and Roman coach up Smith, and let him loose.