Thursday, September 20, 2012

Patrick Willis "Alex Smith Has Silent But Deadly Swag"

"The San Francisco 49ers are the best team in football with the best defense in football. That's not up for discussion. Yet somehow, even as the Niners keep winning and dominating, my guy keeps getting lost in the shuffle.

Meet Alex Smith, star quarterback.

Too strong? Then you haven't been watching. Did you see him make clutch throws, survive poor officiating and endure a busted nose while beating the Detroit Lions in primetime? Did you see Smith establish Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and make big plays in the telling win against the Green Bay Packers to start the season? Do you remember how he outplayed Drew Brees and made huge plays down field in the playoff win against the New Orleans Saints?

I don't care about his yards or where he went in your fantasy draft or if he's even on a team in your league. Alex Smith has defeated Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford in three of his past four games. He was a Kyle Williams fumble away from adding Eli Manning to that list. Smith has gone 216 straight passes without a pick, a franchise record in San Francisco. You might recall that Joe Montana and Steve Young played for the Niners.

(You also might have noticed Peyton Manning, the quarterback San Francisco flirted with this off-season, threw three picks on Monday night.)

Smith persevered through the Mike Singletary insanity and dealt with a new offensive coordinator every season until Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach. He is the epitome of toughness. That defines his play, especially in crunch time. That defines his leadership style.

Linebacker Patrick Willis is rightly recognized as being the heart of the 49ers. Talking to Willis on Wednesday on my SiriusXM show, he made it crystal clear how much Smith means to the Niners.

"Alex Smith is our guy," Willis said. "We believe in him. He doesn't go outside the box. He exists to win. If it is best for him to throw for 300 yards, that's what he will do. If the best option is a check down, he will. He doesn't get caught up in statistics like other quarterbacks. That man has been through a lot. It is a blessing to see this. I truly admire him. Our team admires him. He loves a challenge."

Willis then gave my favorite Alex Smith quote ever when he dropped, "He has a silent but deadly swag."

The fact that Smith has swag of any kind is rather remarkable. This is the same quarterback who was publicly humiliated by the over-matched Singletary, slung through the mud and branded as a bust. For the transformation, you credit Harbaugh pumping him with confidence and credit Smith for responding. You credit Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman for being smart play-callers. Smith finally has stability for his head coach, play-caller and offensive system in consecutive years.

You rightly read the Power Poll with the Niners sitting on top because of the best defense in the game. You don't worry about San Francisco overlooking the Minnesota Vikings this weekend because they take a "one game at a time" approach and have a championship feel to them. Jim Harbaugh gets his props. So does the run game. The Niners are a potential champion and Smith is a main reason why.

You call Smith a game manager. I call him a star who makes plays and sets the tempo and leads. The silent but deadly swag can come up and bite you. If you don't believe me, ask some of the quarterbacks with the gaudy stats who have recently lost to Smith. They'd advise you to stop overlooking him, too."

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