Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Oct 2005

Nolan Ponders QB Change

The only reason not to throw Alex Smith into the fire is if there's a chance he could end up like David Carr -- punch drunk from too many sacks to the head. Otherwise, what does San Francisco have to lose?

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 04 Oct 2005

17 comments, Last at 04 Oct 2005, 11:25pm by andrew

Comments

1
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 10:53am

First game against the Colts, talk about being thrown to the wolves. Well, at least he'd get a lot of chances to throw the ball.

2
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 10:57am

Well, I'd go with the QB who can help them win games, and that's Rattay.

They play in the NFC West. There's no reason they can't win that division.

3
by JG (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 11:03am

I agree that he should start, but just wait one week. Let Rattey play the Colts, then you can name Alex Smith the starter for the Washington game and he has a bye week to prepare for his first start (and the bruises that will go along with the Redskins blitz). If Kyle Orton could come within a field goal of beating the Redskins in his first start, then you would think the no. 1 draft pick would have atleast as good of a chance. I mean, seriously, washington is 3-0 and has won it's games by what, like a combined 6 points? It's just waiting for non-contenders to give them a loss or two.

4
by ryan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 12:33pm

I'd agree with that, but the Bears have a much better team than san fran has.

I say keep Alex Smith out until the O-line stabilizes (Jennings comes back).

5
by Joey (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 1:16pm

One thing I think hampers the development of lots of young QBs is the NFL mentality that, barring injury or monumental ineptitude, the starter has to take every snap. There's absolutely no reason Alex Smith or any other QB couldn't play a few series here and there to get acclimated. Colleges use multiple QBs all the time with few ill affects. But since this is the NEXT LEVEL that's completely out of the question. It's either got to be Smith every play of the way even if he's been knocked down six straight times or he spends the entire game standing on the sidelines.

6
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 2:56pm

It sounds nice to get a young guy some reps in the game and it has been tried. In his rookie year, Cade McNown played in 15 games and only started 9 of those. I'm sure there are other examples out there but if it's not very effective in college it doesn't seem like it would be more effective in pro football.

7
by Joey (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 3:09pm

The question is, "why wouldn't it be effective?" Every other position on the field is substituted for constantly from play-to-play. The fourth wideout doesn't get to say he "wasn't into the flow" so he couldn't run the correct route on third down. Is playing QB--particularly in the modern game where it is just a matter of running whatever play the coaches send in--so different? I think it's a pure case of "this is how things are done" so no one ever debates the point or thinks of doing it any differently.

8
by Jason McKinley (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 3:45pm

I agree with dryheat above. In three of four games this year the 49ers have had at least a 12 point lead. They're one of only five teams that can make that claim this season. Yeah, I know that in week one the special teams (punt return TD and recovery of "surprise" onside kick) and in week four the defense (2 defensive TD's) had as much to do with that as the offense, but maybe the 49ers are close enough to try to win now in a weak division. I would keep starting Rattay until it's hopeless.

9
by David Keller (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 4:44pm

Steve DeBerg is available.

10
by JonL (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 4:53pm

I think one reason quarterbacks aren't subbed in and out more often is that unlike with defensive lineman, say, the unit is affected by that one individual. By that I mean the way a quarterback throws the ball, how long it takes him to throw it, his timing with the receivers, etc., all affect the way an offense runs. Whether a DL prefers a swim move or a straight rush doesn't affect the defense to as great an extent. And while all that is in play in college, because the overall talent level is somewhat lower there may be a larger margin of error.

11
by JonL (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 4:54pm

I think one reason quarterbacks aren't subbed in and out more often is that unlike with defensive lineman, say, the unit is affected by that one individual. By that I mean the way a quarterback throws the ball, how long it takes him to throw it, his timing with the receivers, etc., all affect the way an offense runs. Whether a DL prefers a swim move or a straight rush doesn't affect the defense to as great an extent. And while all that is in play in college, because the overall talent level is somewhat lower there may be a larger margin of error.

12
by TomC (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 5:36pm

After going 11-of-21 for 126 yards and an interception in Mexico, he was pulled in favor of Smith in the fourth quarter - and Rattay didn't take it lightly, criticizing Nolan's decision after the game.

"Obviously, I wasn't happy about it," Rattay said. "You don't ever want to come out of a game, and I thought we still had a chance to win it. But it was (Nolan's) decision, and I respect what the head coach wanted to do."

Where's the criticism? "I thought we still had a chance to win it"? If the AP stringer thinks that's insubordination, I've got a guy named Latrell I'd like to introduce him to.

13
by Nicolas (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 6:47pm

I don't think the solution is putting in Alex Smith. He still needs time to develop. The blame for these SF losses should fall squarely upon Kevan Barlow and his ineffectiveness.

14
by andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 8:01pm

Ugh, colts and then skins. Wait until you get a below average defense then put Smith in.

15
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 8:21pm

Or, you could play Ken Dorsey against the Redskins and Colts, then ease him in against, say, the worst defensive team in the history of professional football? No, not the 49ers, but the NY Giants!

Talk about a shot of confidence coming out of that one! Unfortunatetly, the pressure will be on to be the starter against Chicago at Soldiers' Field.

No. That's when you bring back Rattay or Dorsey to play crancial ping pong with the frozen turf and Urlacher's mitts. First team to stay under five interceptions wins!

Then bring Alex back for Seattle (more confidence!), Tennessee and Arizona.

Then try Dorsey or Rattay at Jacksonville.

But Smith should be fine for St. Louis and then Houston!

Problem solved.

16
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 9:53pm

It's official - Alex Smith will start on Sunday agains the Colts. This may be a permanent change, or it may just be Nolan giving up on the game a week in advance.

17
by andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 11:25pm

Just ask yourself, "What would Denny Green do?"