Alex Smith will never be Michael Vick. Or Randall Cunningham. Or — for our more “experienced” readers joining us today — Bobby Douglass.
But he’s not a statue. He can move around. As a junior at Utah, he rushed for 631 yards, averaged 4.7 yards a carry and scored 10 touchdowns.
So he can, as they say, make plays with his feet. It’s just that he hasn’t done it much in the NFL.
As a result, his two 12-yard scrambles during the Niners’ game-tying
drive against the Saints were something of a revelation. Put it this
way: In the span of 34 seconds, he rushed for 24 yards, which would rank
as the sixth-highest rushing total of his six-year, 42-start career.
Prior to the final drive, Smith hadn’t had a run of more than 11 yards since Sept. 23, 2007 — 16 starts ago — when he had a 25-yard run against the Steelers.
Safe to day, people noticed Smith’s ability to roll left, turn the
corner and pick up first downs — a better option than, say, chucking
the ball to the Gatorade cooler.
Mike Singletary was asked about whether he’d like to see Smith run more
on his weekly appearance this morning on KNBR. A few hours later, he got
the same question during his press conference.
Singletary didn’t take those opportunities to announce plans to unveil the triple option.
“I don’t get excited about him running with the ball,” Singletary said
at his press conference. “That’s why we have Frank Gore. If he can take
off and get some positive yards without getting banged up, then I’m all
for it. He just has to make great decisions.”
The interest in Smith’s running is tied his development as a
quarterback. He has been knocked for looking stiff and mechanical during
his career, having no instincts for the position. So his bolts out of
the pocket Monday night were more than 12-yard gains. They were,
seemingly, bits of evidence that he was playing faster and looser. Doing
less thinking. Trusting the instincts that so many have questioned.
Smith said today that his scrambles Monday were inspired by his team’s do-or-die situation.
“There is a time and place, I think, as far as when to force things,” he
said. “When to take a little more on your shoulders. Two-minute
situation, obviously things had to happen. I knew that so I was willing
to hold on to the ball a little more, run around and try to make a
Smith, who has never rushed for more than 39 yards in a game or 147
yards in a season, isn’t ready to completely alter his style. He
said it depends on the situation.
“I think if I were to ever roll out and saw the opportunity to run, I’d
take it,” Smith said. “But sometimes it’s not always there and it’s
(best) to keep your eyes downfield and look to make a play with your
arm. It’s certainly something I’m thinking about whenever I get out the
And Smith isn’t alone. Plenty of others appear to be thinking about it, too.