A lot of people are feeling a twinge of remorse for quarterback Alex Smith, who picked himself up off the NFL mat and was seemingly in position for a strong playoff run before a concussion allowed young Colin Kaepernick to take his job.
Most of the empathetic emotions are coming from San Francisco, but at least one person on the opposite sideline this Sunday is feeling Smith’s pain. Ravens wide receivers coach Jim Hostler was Smith’s first NFL quarterbacks coach, in 2005 and 2006. The next year, the 49ers promoted Hostler to offensive coordinator. The year after that, Hostler was briefly out of a job before new Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh hired him.
“I have a personal relationship with Alex, and things were going his direction, the direction they should have been going all along there,” Hostler said this morning. “… So it’s disappointing for him. I feel for him.”
Hostler notes that Smith had “a heck of a year” in his second season, when he passed for 2,890 yards and 16 touchdowns, and compiled a not-terrible passer rating of 74.8 on a team that wasn’t exactly loaded with firepower.
“The next year, injuries set him back,” Hostler said. “We didn’t have the same team around him. And then there’s business. There’s a lot of things that go into what makes these guys successful. It was nice to see Alex have some of that success. And it’s disappointing now that he doesn’t get a chance to fulfill it.”
Many of the 49ers fans who came to embrace Smith last season, as he led the team to its first playoff appearance in nearly a decade, were shocked at the development. They had written him off as an NFL bust. Hostler did not make that mistake.
“People who really know Alex would never do that,” he said. “He’s made up of the right stuff. He is exactly what we knew he was gonna be when we drafted him, and circumstances, along with injuries, have played a huge part in him not having the success we thought he would have.”
One more thing is currently playing a part in that process: Colin Kaepernick.