By Dave Wyman
Dave Wyman examines how NFC West quarterbacks have fared through the first quarter of the season.
When discussing the NFL’s best quarterbacks, you wouldn’t expect Alex Smith’s name to pop up, but maybe it should. Smith has his team alone atop the division at 3-1 and is now the No. 8 rated passer in the league. He led his team to a huge come-from-behind victory on Sunday in Philadelphia mostly because of his explosive third-quarter performance. Smith came out of the locker room at halftime and torched the Eagles defense, completing 10 of 10 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from him at times but last year’s version of Smith was the reason a 49ers team that returned 20 of 22 starters finished 6-10. It makes you wonder how much ex-quarterback and current head coach Jim Harbaugh’s advice has guided him. In my opinion, solid quarterback play is the only thing keeping this team from running away with the division. The Niners have talent at nearly every position but Smith’s improved play scares me.
Especially when he posts these numbers on the road in the dreaded Eastern Time Zone: 21/33, 291 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Int, 64 percent completion rate and a QB rating of 112.
Two of Tarvaris Jackson’s four interceptions have come on “Hail Mary” passes. (AP)
Early on in Sunday’s 30-28 loss to the Falcons, Tarvaris Jackson was booed by at least part of the 12th Man (the over-reactors) for his failure to convert two third-down situations. On the first one, there was an obvious miscommunication as T-Jack rolled out to his right and found exactly ZERO receivers running routes. The second time he found every receiver totally blanketed and had to run for it.
From that point forward, Jackson played winning football completing, 66 percent of his passes and throwing three touchdowns, one of them a 52-yarder to Sidney Rice. He ended the day with a QB rating of 96, which was two points higher than Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s rating. Amazing what a quarterback can do when he’s not getting “snot-bubbled” every other play (zero sacks on Sunday).
T-Jack now has four interceptions but in my mind he only “owns” one of them. Two of his picks were “Hail Mary” passes at the end of a half and one was a ball that was knocked out of tight end Zach Miller’s hands. Consider this: Every interception costs a quarterback roughly three points at this stage. Take away those three picks and Jackson would have a QB rating that would put him in the top half of the NFL. Not bad considering the Seahawks only paid $4 million a year for Jackson.
Speaking of contracts, the only number I can think of is 63 when it comes to Michael Vick’s old backup. The Arizona Cardinals paid $63 million for Kolb this offseason and I’m not sure they’re getting their money’s worth just yet. Their 1-3 record certainly doesn’t reflect it.
Kolb is rated as the No. 14 quarterback in the league, but when considering Kolb’s performance this year, the No. 11 pops into my head. That’s receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s jersey number. The Kolb-to-Fitzgerald connection has definitely been established down in the desert, but Kolb has benefited from Fitzgerald more than the other way around. Fitzgerald has made some spectacular catches of some not-so-great Kolb passes. Let’s face it, Larry Fitzgerald would make Dan McGwire look good.
Who would’ve thought that after four games, Sam Bradford, the quarterback everyone crowned as the prize of the NFC West division, would be the 30th-ranked passer in the NFL? Trust me, I do not mind even a little bit watching the Rams lose, but it’s tough to watch Bradford’s team implode all around him. St. Louis looks like the worst team in the league right now and Bradford’s play is horrid. He posted a 64 QB rating last week against the Redskins, completing less than half of his attempts.
It can’t all be pinned on Bradford though. The ‘Skins sacked him seven times for 35 yards and the real heart and soul of that team, Steven Jackson, has missed games and has not been 100 percent when he has played. If they continue at this pace, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck may not be the No. 1 pick in the draft!