It’s been a while since the last time I’ve written an original post for the blog. If you’ve added this page on Facebook, then you know I tend to post articles and ask for feedback daily, so I am indeed active in terms of how I utilize Shoot, Pass, Quibble! However, there are SO MANY different sources of information and analysis on things in the world of sports, oft times when I come up with a concept for something I’d like to write – I find it’s already been done and approached from a variety of angles. And to be quite honest – I don’t want to feel like I’m parroting anyone, or even appear that way.
But as luck would have it, a friend on Facebook provided me with the perfect topic for this post. Since we went back and forth for the better part of 2 hours on Facebook over this subject, I realized – it’s one that hasn’t really been broken down the way I tried to break it down to my friend. Eureka – my next post.
Now, before I go forward, I want to say – this particular blog isn’t meant to dis my friend, nor is it to be taken as an excuse to take potshots at him in the least. However, I WILL refer to things from our online conversation, and to things I’ve heard and read in reference to the subject matter. Some perceptions out there need to be refuted and cleared up. So, to paraphrase the great poet Jay-Z: “Sorry (friend), I’m just trying to advance my quotes – I ain’t making you the butt of my jokes…”
Now, with all that said…Alex Smith is a b***h.
I’m sure most, if not all of you, have by now heard San Francisco QB Alex Smith’s verbal shot at NFL Rookie Of The Year Cam Newton. When asked about his statistics from a season ago, Smith, a long-time NFL under-performer (he was the #1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft) who had his most successful NFL season just last year, unnecessarily threw Cam and the Carolina Panthers under the bus for pretty much no reason. In order to be perfectly clear and transparent, so no one accuses me of “ESPN-ing” this up (read: saying something as though it’s fact, without actual evidence to support it – knowing my audience will buy it due to my reputation) – check out the actual clip of Smith’s words (the quote that has generated the press comes about 4:46 in).
Now, when watching the entire interview, Smith doesn’t seem to be too much of a jerk, right? Seems like he’s just answering questions about his team and the upcoming season. But the media jumped on the Cam comments, and rightfully so – Newton and his team had nothing to do with that conversation. Smith could have easily made his point without naming Newton or any team at all; the question is – WHY did he do that? Why did he choose Cam Newton of all other QBs he could’ve named? What was the impetus?
I’ll get to that a little later.
For now, let’s deal with the fallout from that interview. Newton’s teammate, linebacker Jon Beason, fired back in support of his quarterback on Twitter: “Alex smith, don’t hate on Cam (because) your stats would’ve gotten u cut if Peyton decided to come 2 San Fran. Truth b told. That’s after a 13-3 yr.” Yikes.
Talk about going for the jugular. Thing is – Beason is 100% right. The absolute truth of the matter, and absolute fact – Smith was a free agent this year. The 49ers put out a take it or leave it offer, and Smith, somehow feeling he was due more as the QB of a successful 13-3 team, balked. He felt undervalued, and went out to test the market. Only thing is – there was no market for Smith. He didn’t receive a single offer from any team in the entire league. In fairness, the 49ers offer was a very good one, and one I believe was beyond fair and generous for a QB of his level (and one that he eventually signed). But the fact that they didn’t franchise him, and fully allowed him to test the market speaks volumes. The Miami Dolphins, desperate for a QB, didn’t even offer him a contract (even though they met with him). Lest you forget, the Dolphins pretty much suck. I can’t even name you any other teams, because Miami was pretty much the only team that gave this guy a call. Now, by my count, there were about 10 teams (including San Francisco) that had needs at the starting QB position before both free agency and the draft.
Here are some more Smith facts – a year ago, the 49ers had so much faith in this guy, they drafted QB Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd round. Kaepernick wasn’t drafted as a “sit and wait” QB – he was expected to compete for and win the job. So what saved Smith’s bacon? The lockout. New coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t have the time to really work with the kid like he would’ve liked, so he went with the experienced guy on the roster. That’s it. Nothing more. When Smith performed decently during the season, the team felt a breath of relief. And lest one tries the argument of how it wouldn’t matter since it was a new coach – Harbaugh kept much of he 49ers’ system that was previously in place the year before since he didn’t have a full offseason to make major changes. Smith, of course, was familiar with that system.
What’s that? I’m missing something? Oh, believe me, I know. I know how San Francisco went balls to the wall to get Peyton Manning. I know full well the coach who rejuvenated Smith’s career and who supposedly had so much faith in his ability had no contact with him during this time period, and was the first person to go see Manning throw at Duke, secretly flying in under cover of night. I know that the 49ers put on the press harder than any other team until Manning told them he wasn’t interested. Big show of confidence, right?
But let’s get to the meat of the argument, and the perception that some people (my friend included) bought into – that Smith’s comments hold merit. Because, make no mistake about this in any capacity…THEY DON’T. See, outside of throwing a guy under the bus, Smith’s comments actually aren’t true in relation to Cam Newton. This line stands out in particular: “…if you’re losing games in the second half, guess what? You’re like the Carolina Panthers and you’re going no-huddle the entire second half and, yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games, that’s great. You’re not winning, though.” The only part of that statement that’s true is Cam and the Panthers didn’t win. But the STRONG implication, the one that most people in the NFL (by their own words, not mine), the media and the public took to heart, was that Cam got his stats because his team was always losing, and thus, they were constantly trying to throw the ball to attempt to stay in games, padding Cam’s stats and making him look like a better QB than he actually was. There’s an implication that HIS (Cam’s) stats were overblown, and that he isn’t as good as advertised.
What Smith says assumes (A) Newton was always putting up stats in garbage time and (B) it’s easy to get the stats Newton got. If it’s so easy, how come no other rookie ever did it? Stands to reason most rookie QBs are on teams that aren’t top-caliber (the first-year starters, at least). No, it’s dismissive of a record-breaking achievement. Drew Brees puts up gaudy numbers whether his teams are good or bad (feel free to check his career stats and the win-loss records of the teams he’s played on – whether the teams’ are good or not, he pretty much always gets his numbers). So one could dismiss his numbers if they chose to, but it would be foolish to. Smith’s first season as a starter wasn’t in the same galaxy as Newton’s, by the way. Hell, no one’s was – because Cam broke every major rookie QB record of note. Smith isn’t even in the top 20 of rookie seasons by a QB. Hell – not even top 50 (look it up). Remember – Smith was a #1 draft pick, just like Newton. Please don’t forget that.
Smith didn’t go 13-3 because he was so great – he wasn’t even a Pro Bowl selection. He went 13-3 because he had a top 5 defense and a fantastic running game. Teams didn’t game plan to shut him down AT ALL. People who just take stats without context might buy the crap he said. But he’s as responsible for his team’s gaudy record as Joe Flacco is. Meaning – they both rode great defenses and strong running games to success. The difference is – Flacco at least HAS been above-average his entire career. Smith has been sub-par until last year. And both QBs had somewhat similar seasons stat-wise last year, both of which were good seasons for both.
But make no mistake – Ray Rice, Frank Gore and their defenses were the main components of the Baltimore Ravens’ and 49ers’ success last season. Anyone arguing differently is a fool.
Now, here’s the point I made to my buddy on this – I WATCHED these games. While my friend appeared to have taken Smith’s words as valid, and simplified it down to the wins & losses argument – I knew that argument held no water because I actually saw the games. Hell, it’s essentially why I know so much about sports – I watch the actual games. In today’s society, we have so many people who form their opinions off of watching ESPN highlights and reading stories or listening to/watching talking heads segments…they try to form accurate opinions on things without actually having seen things for themselves. When I was growing up, I got popped if I joined an adult’s conversation without knowing what I was talking about. And I remember watching the adult men clowning any guy who spoke up who didn’t know what he was talking about. Now – it’s commonplace. Everyone has an opinion, but few can back it with substance.
I not only watched the games that came on Sundays and Mondays (including games seen on NFL League Pass and Canadian TV once in a while), I watched THE REPLAYS on NFL Network during the week. That’s right – even after seeing the highlights and knowing the results, I still watched replays of most of the games throughout the week if I was home. I don’t watch TV shows as much as others – I watch sports. And read. I have my shows, but I think there’s probably less than 10 TV shows I watch regularly in the course of a year. So I saw almost every Carolina game, and I saw most of the 49ers games as well.
Why did I bring this up? Because Cam’s numbers actually came over the course of entire games; he did not pad his stats in blow out losses as implied by Smith. All of the scrutiny by the entire sports media, yet no one has brought up this supposed reality until Smith? Bullcrap. I watched the games. I KNOW better. Stats without context make for people speaking without actual knowledge of the subject matter.
However – stats WITH context are used by knowledgeable folks all the time. After I made this point to my friend – about watching the games and seeing Cam do it throughout, not just at the end – I decided to look up what my own eyes saw. Bingo – the eyes don’t lie. This is what I found (again, anyone can feel free to look these things up and prove me wrong):
Out of ten losses, the Carolina Panthers were only blown out in 3. So, they were
in the game in 7 out of 10 losses. Not exactly padding stats in the 2nd half. Overall for the year, the Panthers led in 14 of 16 games, including 10 in the fourth quarter, but of those 10 they won only six. Carolina finished 6-10 and behind Newton’s offensive production upped its scoring average from 12.2 points per game in 2010 to 25.4 points per game in 2011. Newton completed 60 percent of his passes for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns, with 17 interceptions, and he rushed 126 times for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns, the most for a quarterback in NFL history.
So, just look at that for a second. Soak those statistical facts, that I saw with my own eyes, in. And also realize – Newton is one of the rare QBs who had more TDs than interceptions in his rookie year, and of those interceptions, some of them were FORCED in an effort to win. One could argue had he had an even average NFL defense, you could lower the INTs by about 5-7 in number.
Do you now realize that Smith’s words and implications aren’t just off – they’re literally ABSURD?!? Like…literally. ABSURD. To quote Skip Bayless, Smith’s assertion is “asiNINE, asiTEN, asiELEVEN…”
From a man’s standpoint, what Smith did was what some of us call “b***ha$$ness”. This isn’t a case of a defensive player throwing a jab at a rival, like James Harrison saying something about Joe Flacco, or Ray Lewis talking about Eddie George. Rivals talk crap about each other, tweak each other, etc. – it’s par for the course. But one thing you don’t see – you don’t see QBs randomly throwing each other under the bus. Think about it – with Tebow-mania last year, how many active QBs did you hear say anything negative about him? For the 5 years Brett Favre fought LeBron James as the biggest attention-whore in all of sports, how many active QBs talked bad about him? Anyone ever hear a current QB chime in on Tony Romo when everyone else is grilling him?
No. Because you don’t do that. You’re all QBs – you understand. You know the deal. You’re part of the same fraternity. Leave that to the media, analysts, ex-players, etc. But QBs don’t trash other QBs. Even ESPN anchor Trey Wingo said in reference to this “Keep my name out your mouth” (editorializing what he thought Cam’s thoughts should be on this).
So yes – like I said above…Alex Smith is a b***h. The question I posed before – why did he do this? Well – I can’t prove this, and I may never be able to – but it’s what I think…
Because of good ol’ jealousy and bias.
Let me be clear so there’s no misunderstanding – I’m 100% saying Cam Newton’s race had to do with this. Absolutely. I can’t prove this, and I’m pretty positive if this was brought up in the larger media conversation, Smith would eventually deny it as completely untrue. We’d get the obligatory stories of how many Black teammates he’s had, the great relationships he’s had with Black players and people he knows, what he’s done in charity that involved Black folks…etc. You’d have Black teammates stepping up to speak up for the guy, no doubt. Just like if your co-worker said something negative about a Black employee that you suspected was rooted subconsciously (or consciously) in racial bias or prejudice, there are probably many who wouldn’t see it as that – and probably a small number who would.
But I simply don’t believe he would’ve mentioned Andy Dalton’s name if HE had the same season and stats as Cam. You know who ACTUALLY had the type of season Smith described? One with good stats that were padded late in games? Philip Rivers. Know how I know? I had him on a fantasy team. Every single week, I’d look at how he was performing during his games, pissed that it was the 3rd quarter and his stats were anemic. I tried to trade him all year – couldn’t get a good deal back. Everyone low-balled me. But you know what? Come the 4th quarter, Rivers’ stats would improve considerably. This didn’t occur in every game, but A LOT of them. By the end of the game, I had somehow squeezed out at least 250-300 yards and a couple of TDs out of a guy who went into the 3rd quarter barely over the century mark. Note – Rivers threw for over 4,000 last year as well; he actually had 4,624 to Cam’s 4,051.
Why didn’t Smith mention Rivers? Who is a veteran QB who was literally criticized for under-performing in the first half of most of his games during the course of the year NUMEROUS times?? Why didn’t he name Tony Romo – who had the same criticisms? Cam didn’t get that criticism all year, and his games and stats were broke down meticulously every week.
Competitive nature, you speculate? Hmm – Cam Newton has never played a single down against the 49ers. Not in last year’s preseason. Not in last year’s regular season. Nor are they scheduled to meet this season, either. It’s completely possible Smith has never even been within 25 miles of Newton. Ever.
They have never been in the same division. They’ve never had any historical rivalry. Smith’s college, Utah, has never had any beef with Newton’s schools (Florida and Auburn). This is like me talking about the director of marketing at my job – I’ve never met the guy (or woman).
Newton popped into a QB’s head who doesn’t have any relationship with due to the fact that he’s a Black QB who bucked what he was “supposed” to do (which was have a crappy season, NOT torch the league and it’s records). I don’t expect many to agree, because in my experience many people need blatantly racist or prejudiced words or actions to believe that as a possibility – but as someone who has watched this game my entire life and who is sensitive to these subtle digs at certain players – that’s what I see. In fact, in writing this article, I tried to think of the many players who have had racial digs or underlying slick comments directed at them…and it was easier for me to think of the Black pro QBs I can think of who I’ve never heard anything like that for. You know who they are?
Vince Evans (only when he played for the Raiders) and Charlie Batch. That’s it. Literally. And I’m not even saying it never happened with them – I just never heard or read it in regards to both.Those are the only 2 Black pro QBs out of 30+ years of watching football that I can think of like that.
It’s completely speculative that Smith’s comments are born out of a bit of jealousy and racial animus, and unless he decides to become a much more vocal presence in media, we may never know either way. I just know the facts and circumstances I’ve laid out here. Newton, who by this point is beyond used to shade being thrown his way, I’m sure ain’t sweatin’ this much. But I felt like someone needed to actually refute the implications and insinuations put out by Smith (I’ve encountered no articles doing so to the degree I have), and to put some speculation as to why Smith would even purse his lips to say Cam’s name.
What Smith needs to do, really, is man up and SHUT THE F*** UP. Had he said the same about Philip Rivers, my opinion would be the same as far as him throwing another QB under the bus – you don’t do that. Accept that you’re being questioned about your statistics because you’ve been a mediocre QB almost your entire career, and you’re a #1 draft pick who has had the likes of Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, J.T. O’Sullivan, Chris Weinke and Troy Smith start OVER you in your career thus far. A guy who was going to be CUT after the 2009 season until you agreed to re-structure your contract to remain on the team. A guy whose team has tried to bring a QB to replace you 2 years in a row. A guy who completed only 46% of your passes in the NFC Championship loss to the NY Giants.
A guy who will NEVER be as good of a QB as Cam Newton is already. Because if Newton had your team – they might have won the Super Bowl. And Newton wouldn’t have been classless enough to throw anyone under the bus when asked about improving his game – since he’s been asked about it already, and thus far, has simply said he’s working to get better.
Sad to say – but Alex Smith could learn a lot by watching a former rookie/2nd year player if he could get over himself. As it stands, he just added himself to the “athletes I don’t like” team. And even on that squad – he’s not good enough to be a starter. Something I’m sure he’s used to.