San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Alex Smith is a proven winner that certain franchises struggling at the game's most important position should strongly consider.
Typically, losing one's starting job to an injury isn't necessarily fair, but Colin Kaepernick has been a revelation with his combination of physical tools as a passer and gifted rushing ability. What may get lost in Kaepernick's meteoric rise is how well Smith was playing before he was supplanted.
Smith posted a 104.1 passer rating in 2012, with a 70.2 percent completion rate and nearly eight yards per attempt. That is some shockingly efficient quarterback play, and it obviously took a special player to replace him.
Here are some teams that don't exactly have a franchise signal-caller that would benefit from giving Smith a chance.
The current options for the Jags aren't pretty. It's Chad Henne. Or Blaine Gabbert.
Well then, why not give Smith a go? Jacksonville actually has a plethora of receivers in Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson, who simply didn't have the benefit of having a consistent, competent quarterback throwing to them in 2012.
New head coach Gus Bradley is enthusiastic and passionate, traits he conveyed in his opening press conference. He brings the same kind of energy that Smith's staff did in San Francisco—something that completely revitalized his career. Well, until he got benched.
In all seriousness, Bradley will want to establish a defensive identity, and he has brought in Jedd Fisch as his offensive coordinator, according to ESPN.
The whole concept of enthusiasm and passion may sound like a half-baked idea, but the Jags are legitimately moving in the right direction. Fisch most recently called plays for the Miami Hurricanes. He brings a hurry-up style of offense that is becoming the new normal for professional teams.
With the amount of playmakers on the outside and the return of star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, there are pieces in place for Smith to succeed immediately.
A lot of that success will depend on how quickly Bradley and Co. can turn around the defense.
Kansas City Chiefs
Cassel hasn't lived up to his grossly expensive contract and will likely be cut. Quinn has never lived up to the hype as a first-round pick. Interestingly, Smith didn't live up to the hype as the No. 1 overall pick for years, but he has since redeemed himself to say the least.
The presence of a credible coach who is a proven winner in Andy Reid could lure Smith to Kansas City.
The plus side to bringing in Smith is that the Chiefs wouldn't have to use their top pick in the impending draft to reach for a quarterback. West Virginia's Geno Smith is considered the top prospect, but it's highly questionable as to whether he's worthy of such gaudy draft status.
The Chiefs ranked dead last in passing in the NFL with 169.6 yards per game, so there is no way that Smith would not be an upgrade.
A huge selling point beyond Reid could be the production of Jamaal Charles from this past year. Coming off of an ACL injury, he wasn't quite Adrian Peterson, but he did run for over 1500 yards and nine touchdowns despite zero help from his quarterbacks.
Trading for Smith would provide at least some short-term stability under center and would further pique premier wide receiver Dwayne Bowe's interest in returning to the team.
Kansas City definitely has talent on the roster and can add even more depth by affording themselves the opportunity to trade the top overall pick by acquiring Smith independently.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport planted the seed for a Smith-Ken Whisenhunt combination in Buffalo on Twitter back in early January:
Big question for Whisenhunt: Could he work with Alex Smith in Buffalo, which is one possibility, while they groom a younger one. We'll see— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2013
While Whisenhunt has since moved on to become the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, the idea of Smith moving to Buffalo is still enticing—particularly with new offensive-minded head coach Doug Marrone.
This is a coach who learned under New Orleans Saints' offensive genius Sean Payton from 2006-08 and suddenly has one of the best running back tandems in the league in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson at his disposal.
Combine that duo with Stevie Johnson at receiver and an underrated tight end in Scott Chandler and there are some serious playmakers on this roster.
Both Spiller and Jackson are capable receivers out of the backfield, and the offense would be manageable for Smith. He has become a very cerebral, smart quarterback under the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman in San Francisco.
Current "franchise" quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is too erratic with the football and doesn't possess the same athleticism as Smith.
Meanwhile, if Marrone wants to continue with his University of Syracuse theme—he's hired four coaches from his previous stop (h/t Buffalo Bills.com)—he could select his most recent Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib in the 2013 draft and allow him to develop behind a veteran in Smith.
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