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NFL Unfiltered Week 12: 49ers QB Controversy, Robert Griffin III, Andy Reid


San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Alex Smith is a solid player, maybe even a good one.  He is tough mentally and physically and the 49ers are 20-6-1 in games he has started since Jim Harbaugh’s arrival.  He even came within a couple of special teams gaffes from playing in the Super Bowl.  


Likewise, Smith’s numbers for 2012 are very good as he has completed 70% of his passes with 13 touchdowns versus 5 interceptions for those who place more value on statistical data.  Yet, barring injury, he has started his last game for San Francisco and despite all the national hand-wringing, it’s the best decision for the 49ers.  Photo: blogs.sacbee.com


If you listen to the NFL experts, head coach Jim Harbaugh must be crazy?  How could he possibly mess with the chemistry of a team primed to make another run at the championship?  The answer is simple: he is watching the games and he is trying to win.  


No less than three weeks ago, while Smith still owned the starting spot, many of the NFL’s most trusted voices said he was the teams’ weakest link.  They called him a game-manager and fantasized about how good the 49ers could have been had they signed Peyton Manning.  In fact, after his poor outing against the New York Giants last month he was universally singled out as the reason the 49ers wouldn’t win the Super Bowl.   


But now that Colin Kaepernick, the 36th pick in last year’s draft  has seized the opportunity brought about by Smith’s concussion, the national media is trying to change the narrative. And this is the thing that drives me crazy.  


Unquestionably, conventional wisdom suggests Smith has done nothing to lose his job, but when did he become John Elway?  Why is it such a risk to play the guy who so obviously has more physical skill?  


It is my feeling this is not the case of a coach trying to show the world how smart he is.  Nor is it an example of an accomplished former all-pro being disrespected and put out to pasture in his later years.  It is just that Kaepernick passes the eye test and Harbaugh knows it.      


Kaepernick is a chiseled 6’5”, 235 lbs and the difference in arm strength between him and Smith is glaring.  In truth, Kaepernick might have the NFL’s strongest arm after Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco.       


Smith has now attempted 2,244 passes in his career and I can only remember one throw that took my breath away.  The pass he threw to tight end Vernon Davis at the end of last season’s playoff game against the New Orleans Saints is the stuff of legend. He threw that pass into a small area with force and conviction.  


Regrettably for Smith, there simply haven’t been enough of those kinds of passes while Kaepernick has made a couple of breathtaking throws in each of his two starts, albeit with less at stake.    


By all accounts, Alex Smith is a good player, a good teammate and a better guy but his days as the 49ers’ starting quarterback are over.  And they should be.        



What the pundits can’t or won’t say


-I know Ndamukong Suh has issues and they seem to show up on Thanksgiving, but shouldn’t we hear more about the fact he isn’t a very good defensive tackle?


-The Lions were the victims of a bad call, but does anyone else see the irony in head coach Jim Schwartz getting penalized for a rules infraction when he taunted Jim Harbaugh for the same thing last season?


-Not too much heard these days about the damage to the game’s integrity, despite poor performances by the officials in several recent games.

-I don’t care how spectacular Robert Griffin III looks or plays, I still contend he is being misused by Mike Shanahan and his son.Robert Griffin III photo: nfl.si.com


-Bill Belichick is a good coach, but the defenders the Patriots’ have drafted the last four seasons remind us the draft is an inexact science, and Belichick is no messiah.  


-There isn’t a single head coach in the league who doesn’t struggle with clock management from time to time.  Most screw it up every week but win in spite of themselves.


-In a matter of minutes Sunday afternoon I saw Bucs’ head coach Greg Schiano carry 3 timeouts beyond the 2-minute warning down a point.  Atlanta’s Mike Smith tried a field goal on 4th down from the Bucs’ 30 yard-line with :13 seconds to play and the Dolphins’ let the clock run after getting a 1st down with :15 seconds left and one timeout.  They settled for (and made) a 43-yard kick.   


-The Falcons can score from anywhere on the field but that ability contributes to their lack of football self-awareness.  And it’s why they won’t win three playoff games.   


-Jay Cutler’s is the nonchalance of losers. He seems like a nice enough dude but his profession demands a certain level of seriousness.  And instead of leading his squad, he’s getting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for taunting.     


-NFL pass interference is too penal.  Fifteen yards is plenty for a call that is so often questionable.


-The single most important skill a coach can have is his ability to believe what he sees.  I don’t just mean adjusting to the opponent.  I mean understanding when a player on his own team is hot even though his production wasn’t accounted for in the game plan.    


-When I think of gritty players, Asante Samuel doesn’t come to mind.  But his effort this week despite a bad right shoulder deserves mention.  


-No matter how bad your favorite team is, they have a chance to win if they play a team equally bad.  


-In all fairness to Andy Reid, hall-of-fame quarterback Steve Young is wrong.  I saw an awful lot of bad from the Eagles, but I did not see a lot of going through the motions.


Top 4 this week (rankings disclaimer: my top four will always feature two AFC teams and two NFC teams).


1. Houston Texans (10-1) – Another 31 points surrendered by a depleted defense.


2. Atlanta Falcons (10-1) – The playoffs can’t get here fast enough. 


3. Baltimore Ravens (9-2) – Playing a little bit better defensively.    


4. San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) – Alex Smith’s career as a regular starter is over.


Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area. He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention. His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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Alex Smith photo: blogs.sacbee.com