NFC Championship Preview: Alex Smith Coming of Age

The new Alex Smith

As the 49ers came to the line of scrimmage with :14 seconds left, Alex Smith was just 14 yards away from forever changing the perception of him league-wide. He had battled Drew Brees head to head in a wild 4th quarter in last week’s NFC Divisional Tilt with the Saints holding a 32-29 lead. It’s at this point after the spike everyone held their collective breath as to what was going to happen. Would they go for the tie and play in overtime or would they shun conservative logic and go for the win?? What were you thinking as the 49ers broke that huddle?? Did you have faith in Alex Smith borne from this game where he already had accounted for 3 touchdowns or were you waiting for the old Alex Smith to emerge and throw an interception?? Tell the truth…

Well last Sunday, Alex Smith turned into the quarterback 49ers brass envisioned when they drafted him out of the University of Utah some 6 years back. Less than a year ago they weren’t sure if Alex Smith was their future. They selected Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick with their 2nd round pick in last April’s draft, throwing Smith’s future in serious jeopardy. Yet with new found confidence in himself, courtesy of his relationship with new head coach Jim Harbaugh, Smith progressed.

The NFC Championship Trophy the Giants and 49ers will be playing for.

Over the course of the season, many pundits and fans alike thought of Smith as no more than a care taker of the 49er offense. Play to the strength of Frank Gore’s running, don’t turn it over, and unleash a rested defense on opponents. It all went according to plan until 2 quarters into the divisional playoff, when the high flying New Orleans offense woke from a haze and started moving the football. Smith had engineered a 17-0 advantage when Brees brought the Saints back to within 3 cutting the Niner lead to 17-14 at halftime. Gone was the defensive swagger from the San Francisco defense and the realization that Smith and the offense would have to keep pace to win it.

Fast forward to :14 seconds left… Which Alex Smith would emerge?? The quarterback with the jittery feet who was unsure of himself and threw off his backfoot of previous vintage?? Or would the confident, almost swaggering player who showed up to battle Brees tooth and nail complete a miraculous transformation?? The second his drop back plant foot hit, Smith uncorked a rocket to Vernon Davis just beyond the zone patrolled by Scott Shanle for the winning touchdown.

He had transformed himself forever and celebrated in the endzone with his teammates and the ghosts of Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jeff Garcia. Candlestick Park and everyone who watched this game was in disbelief. Not that the 49ers won, it was Smith’s surprising emergence into a quarterback who could win a big playoff game. He stood toe to toe and gunned down media darling and Super Bowl winning quarterback Drew Brees to lead the 49ers to their first NFC Championship Game since 1997.

The question is: What will he do for an encore?? Will he join the ghosts of Montana, Young, and Garcia and beat the New York Giants in a home playoff game?? Each one of his predecessors have. With one more win we can have our first rookie coach to make it to the Super Bowl since Denver Broncos Red Miller in 1977. One thing is he’ll have Coach Harbaugh’s confidence in taking the field tomorrow to prove he’s worthy of a Super Bowl trip. He has to best another Super Bowl winning quarterback to get there. Yet the road Alex Smith has had to travel to get to this point…

  • Considered a first round draft bust, by many, heading into this season.
  • Enduring two head coaches other than Harbaugh in Singletary and Nolan where he played very unsure of himself.
  • Persevering the carousel of 5 different offensive co-ordinators and numerous benchings in his first 5 seasons. Benched for Shaun Hill and Troy Smith to name a few.
  • Having to swallow his pride and rededicate himself after the 49ers drafted an heir apparent replacement in Colin Kaepernick.

He definitely has the chance to erase a history that he distanced himself from last week. A second win and a Super Bowl berth will anoint him into a light that has been reserved for a Matt Ryan or a Joe Flacco. Quarterbacks who have been anointed by the media yet haven’t proved anything in playoff competition yet. Not to the degree that we witnessed last week in Candlestick…

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One thought on “NFC Championship Preview: Alex Smith Coming of Age

  1. Pingback: Chiefs Get Their Man – Alex Smith Traded From 49ers to Kansas City | Taylor Blitz Times

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