In the ranks of Niner Nation, doubt still clings to Alex Smith. Where some see a young quarterback on the verge of a breakthrough, others see the weak link in the 49ers’ offense. Where some see the victim of inconsistent pass protection and predictable play calling, others see the victim of his own inaccuracy.
Among Smith’s teammates, though, the feeling seems to be highly positive as the top overall pick of the 2005 draft heads into his sixth season, and his second with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.
Wide receiver Josh Morgan was at Boeddeker Park in San Francisco yesterday to help promote a nonprofit group called Year Up. (I’ll blog on that later.) I cornered him there. And when I asked Morgan about Smith, his demeanor brightened.
Morgan noted that Smith’s confidence seemed to grow by the week last season, but it really sprouted when the offense finally got together for offseason workouts this spring.
“He took total control over everything,” the third-year receiver said. “Like with the offense, we’d go out there and half the time Alex would just run the whole thing, run the whole practice without the coaches even being there. That’s what you like to see in your quarterback. You like to see him with that type of fire, take that type of leadership. I mean, he’s spitting the plays out, he’s explaining everything and it’s just like, ‘Wow. Thank you.’ I’m getting excited about it.”
I then asked Morgan about how Ted Ginn might open up the offense for the other weapons. Morgan acknowledged Ginn’s speed, but immediately brought the conversation back to Smith and those offseason passing workouts.
“It was like a whole new Alex,” Morgan said. “It was like, ‘Wow, where did you come from?’ I had a couple friends that played with him at Utah, and they said that’s how he was at Utah. So it was like, ‘Wow, that’s what they was talking about.’ It’s just exciting to see. I’m just hoping he has that same success he had at Utah, and he’s gonna really show why he was the No. 1 pick.”
Later in the day, I listened to tight end Vernon Davis and two other panelists discuss the importance of arts education in public schools (yes, more later), in an event at the de Young Museum. The audience got to fire questions after the moderated portion, and at one point, another panelist jumped in to query Davis about his quarterback.
“I love Alex Smith to death,” he answered. “There’s something about him. I look forward to working with him this season. I wouldn’t replace him with nobody. He has it in him. He just has to bring it out. This is the year for Alex Smith.”
The real proof won’t come until this fall, when we see whether Smith is completing passes and leading touchdown drives on a consistent basis. But if the first step in becoming an elite NFL quarterback is winning over your teammates, Smith is off to a great start in 2010.