By Jerrell Richardson
After the dust settled from the 49ers and Cardinals game on Monday, Alex Smith was just one completion short of setting an NFL record. He finished the day 18 of 19 for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns. If he had completed just one more pass he would have secured the best single game completion percentage in NFL history. There was some controversy, as a late game play involving Smith and Michael Crabtree had Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the team asking for the league to take a closer look and give Smith the record. On the play in question Smith certainly threw the ball to Crabtree. However, on a day in which he was so close to setting an accuracy record, it was an inaccurate throw that cost him the chance to claim the most efficient single game passing percentage ever.
Throw Or Run?
Was it a throw? Well technically yes. On the play Smith took the snap and threw a quick pass to Michael Crabtree. Before the snap, the ball was spotted on the 10, Smith took a one step drop, planted on the 9 and made the throw. On the outside Patrick Peterson, who has been getting abused all night had given Crabtree all kinds of room and it was a good call and read. Crabtree had so much of a cushion that he was already moving forward before the pass got to him, as he was trying to set up his run after the catch. The problem though was that the ball was a yard off and Crabtree stopped his momentum, and had to step back and make the catch before turning up field for what turned out to be a 8 year gain.
Inaccurate Pass Cost Smith Record
There was no reason to throw the ball behind Crabtree, but the ball sailed on Smith. Football is indeed a game of inches or in this case yards. If Smith throws the ball just one yard to the left then the ball is in front of Crabtree or at least lateral. This would mean it would be a pass and the record is Smith’s. It’s almost fitting that this cost him the record, as it was a very marginal error, but at the end of the day it was an inaccurate throw, and if dropped or not caught by Crabtree, it’s a live ball, so its impossible to rule this a throw. Add in the fact that a ball thrown in front of Crabtree gives the receiver a much better chance at getting some yards, and as as nice as it would be to have another 49er with a NFL record in his name, in this case, to claim the most accurate night in NFL history, Smith unfortunately did not deserve it.
Smith may not have deserved to be the most accurate passer ever on that night, but he has still had a very accomplished 2012 season. He has gone from draft day bust, to over rated game manager to (in his own words), a football player. His accomplishments this year include the FedEx Air Player of the Week, the NFC Offensive Player of the week, and he also set the team’s franchise record for consecutive passes without an interception. Not bad for a guy who was perceived to be one of the worst quarterbacks in the league just 2 years ago. It would be something for him to grab such an prestigious sounding honor, but in reality its a misleading record. The two men leading in this category are Kurt Warner and Vinny Testarverde. Now Kurt Warner did win a Superbowl and has gotten support from both sides in the argument if he deserves to be in the hall of fame, but Vinny Testarverde well never been in a conversation as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Outside of his magical night, Vinny also also holds the record for most losses by a starting quarterback (123) and more then once lead the league in interceptions.
Ultimate Goal Is Superbowl
All of the records should mean nothing to any player, especially a quarterback without a Superbowl ring. Smith’s award worthy performances will mean nothing, and will be soon forgotten if he can’t lead his team to the promised land. What his awards do show, is that he has become more then just a game manager, and if able to continue to develop under Jim Harbaugh, could make weekly awards and NFL records the norm, and can shake the title of game manager, and one day enter the realm of the elite.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.