As of Christmas Day, 2010, Alex Smith had a career record of 18-31. At 13 games under .500 with a 0.367 winning percentage, it sure seemed like Smith was a draft bust. His head coach, Mike Singletary, didn’t seem to have much use for him, just like Mike Nolan before him. Before Jim Harbaugh resurrected Smith’s career, it seemed like he would be yet another draft bust.
But since Christ Day, 2010, Smith has had a sparkling 0.713 winning percentage, thanks to a 63-25-1 record. Smith lost 28 of his first 44 starts, but he’s only lost 28 of his last 94 starts. The graph below shows Smith’s career marked in terms of games below/above .500. His low point was 13 games under .500, reached three times (most recently in mid-December 2010) but now he’s a career high 25 games above .500:
That’s a remarkable career arc, but what can we learn from his career?
Is it that supporting cast matters more than we sometimes think? Or coaching?
Or, perhaps, that Smith — like Sam Bradford — has been given chance after chance to resurrect his career because of his lofty draft status? What would have happened if mid-round picks like Sage Rosenfels or Troy Smith or Matt Flynn or Chris Redman been given chance after chance to succeed? Or is it that Smith and Bradford ultimately have the skill set that other quarterbacks do not, and it just took them longer to get there?
Smith is not a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he’s undoubtedly a good one. From 2005 to 2010, Smith ranked 32nd out of 34 quarterbacks in ANY/A (minimum 30 starts and 800 attempts); since then, he ranks 12th out of 37 passers by the same measure.
What do you think is the biggest takeaway from Smith’s career?