Well, this is one 49ers fans can’t blame on Alex Smith. They may even want him back after Troy Smith crashed and burned in the 49ers’ first home shutout in 33 years Sunday.
When a new quarterback, especially an unconventional one like Troy Smith, comes into the NFL, he can have some early success. But then, the defensive coordinators look at the game video and devise schemes to stop him.
That’s what happened to Troy Smith on Sunday. The Tampa Bay Bucs shut off the deep routes with a zone defense, so Smith couldn’t just fling the ball downfield and have his receivers go for it. They had a controlled pass rush with only a few blitzes. Only once, early in the game, did Smith have a chance to run, which he did for 15 yards.
He didn’t have receivers who were wide open, as had happened when the Rams blitzed and left corners in single coverage. He threw the first of what will be multiple interceptions if he continues playing.
Smith can be an exciting player because he plays so recklessly, but the Bucs exposed him. As I wrote two weeks ago, he will soon return to NFL obscurity.
In recent years, there has been a divide between college quarterbacks who come into the NFL. Those who come from passing offenses, like Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford (if he can stay healthy), can succeed. Those who come from a spread offense usually fail, because they have trouble adjusting to the pro-style offense. Both Smiths fall into that category. So does Tim Tebow, whom NFL people praise for his attitude and athletic ability but doubt he’ll ever make it as a quarterback.
Sunday’s debacle was not all Troy Smith’s fault. The 49ers have a multitude of problems, starting with a coach who doesn’t have a clue. The offensive line can’t protect the quarterback. The play-calling is still too conservative, because of Mike Singletary’s insistence on a Stone Age offensive philosophy. The defense can make big plays but also has fundamental breakdowns.
All these problems existed before, but both fans and media put the blame on the quarterback. Maybe now they’ll start to realize that Alex Smith was dealt an impossible hand.
This is a team that is less than the sum of its parts because the coaching, both from Singletary and his assistants, is not high quality.
The hope has always been that the 49ers had a shot at making the playoffs because they’re playing in a weak division. The second half of that proposition is still true; 8-8 will probably win it. But at 3-7, do you really think the Niners are capable of getting there?
Now, Singletary is stuck. Even he has to realize, after this game, that Troy Smith is not the answer.
Yet, if he goes back to Alex Smith, you can bet fans and media will hop all over him, saying he didn’t give Troy Smith a real chance.
In the end, it makes no real difference. This is an organization that has no direction, no hope — and it shows on the field. The quarterbacking is not the only problem.