With the season all but over (okay, there is still a small chance for the playoffs, as 12thomasal outlined in another fanpost), I figure we might as well look ahead to the off-season. Yeah, part of this is the pessimist in me, but we all know the season is all but lost with the loss today. At 4-7, winning out would put you at 9-7, which probably isn't enough for the playoffs anyways. And even if it was... the stretch to end the season isn't exactly a cake-walk.
Back to the topic at hand... QBs. Jake Delhomme might be the problem. He might not be (Jeff Davidson?). But the fact is, he's nearing the end, if he hasn't reached it already. His stats this year are telling. His career completion ratio is up around 60%, it's 57% this year. His TD:interception ratio is 8:18, and his 18 interceptions are tied for the league lead. He's averaged 7.26 yards/attempt in his career, and it's down to 6.57 ypa this year. He has had 3 games with 3+ ints this season (and a total of 0 TDs in those games). In the past 2 seasons, he's had 2 games with a QB rating below 13 (12.3 & 12.7, or something like that). He was the QB in the playoff game that is burned into our brains... no, not the Super Bowl, but the embarrassment last year.
So I figure... why not look at some of the options out there? There are guys available via trade. There are guys that'll be free agents. There will be options in the draft. And the Panthers need an upgrade... whether or not they address this need is still to be determined. There are, of course, other options on the team (AJ Feeley, Matt Moore, Josh McCown), but I don't believe any of them will be "the answer". That's not to imply any of the free agents/trade guys will, but they have a shot of at least momentarily stopping the bleeding. If the Panthers brass believed Moore/Feeley was the guy (McCown is out with injury), they'd already have seen the field.
One potential target is Alex Smith, a #1 pick out of Utah a couple years back. He hasn't had the career you'd hope to have from your #1 pick (which is why he might be available), but has shown flashes... especially as of late.
Alex Smith, 25 years old
Current team: San Francisco 49ers
Why he might be available:
#1- Smith was taken with the #1 overall pick in 2005 by the 49ers. He had just finished off a magical season with the Utah Utes that saw them bust the BCS and destroy Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl, and had won a couple of awards as well. The Niners decided to make him the #1 overall pick, and soon after that, the starter. There were problems from the situation from the get-go. Smith had spent his college time operating out of the shot-gun (for the most part), and the move to taking most of the snaps from under center wasn't going to be easy. Sure enough, it wasn't... and he's pretty much been declared a bust. The bust thing isn't totally on him. While he was touted as being a smart guy, he went through enough OCs & offensive systems his first couple of seasons to drive anyone insane (4 OCs, in fact). Throw in a couple of unfortunate injuries, and the career just didn't start the way he would have liked it too.
#2- Last year, with Smith out, the Niners seemed to finally find a guy in Shaun Hill that, while potentially not the "future" at QB, was able to play in the system that they were using and lead the team. While he ended up being benched again this season for Smith after a slow start, he does have a contract extension in hand that could give him the leg-up on the QB battle next season. (Of course, Smith's play this season might be enough to off-set that, but that's all still to be determined.)
#3- The Niners, thanks to our Panthers, have 2 first-rounders (looking to be mid-1st rounders at worst). With the number of
overrated QBs that'll be available to them early (Jimmy Clausen? Jake Locker? Colt McCoy? Jevan Snead? etc.), they could very easily end up going QB in the first round. In that case, keeping Smith around would just be a waste of space. They also have Nate Davis (drafted last year) in tow, and he could see some time as well.
- Has a decent arm, but nothing exceptional
- He's been efficient versus the blitz.
- Tends to lock on to receivers, which tends to lead to too many interceptions.
- He has a long release time that can cause issues with quick-hitters.
- He's a mobile QB, and is accurate on the run.
- Injury prone?
- Best fit for a West Coast Offense?
- 6 games played (2-4 record)
- 61% completion percentage
- 9:7 TD:interception ratio (skewed by a 3 int game versus Tennessee where he was trying to lead a come-back)
- 6.68 yards/attempt
- Save for a bad '07 season, his completion percentage and TD/interception ratio have gone up every year
- This is the best o-line he's played behind, and arguably the best system in a while.
- He's also got targets now, with Gore, Crabtree & Davis all present & healthy.
Why the Panthers should consider him?
- It could be that he just needs a change of scenery.
- He had the talent to go #1 overall, and it's unlikely it's totally zapped in 5 seasons.
- He's still young (just 25), which is important if you're looking for a "QB of the future".
- He's playing well this year, which shows what happens if he has talent around him.
- The early numbers are a result of him being pushed into action way too early.
- The pressure in San Fran was immense... being the #1 overall pick (over hometown guy Aaron Rodgers), and trying to help a franchise that had fans hoping for the next Steve Young/Joe Montana (not in that order).
- The Panthers have had some success with ex-Utes (Steve Smith, Jordan Gross, Ma'ake Kemoeatu).
Why the Panthers shouldn't consider him?
- Regarding the success with ex-Utes, Alex Smith would be the only one from the Urban Meyer era. Meyer's other QBs with NFL hopes? Omar Jacobs (who amounted to nothing) and Tim Tebow (who doesn't seem to be an NFL QB).
- Numbers are numbers, and he doesn't have very good ones in his NFL time.
- The last thing we need is another injury-prone player... that too, at such an important position.
- Isn't the current QB's love of staring down his receiver bad enough?
- He doesn't have the strongest arm, so hitting Steve Smith on the long route seems unlikely.
- Given his play this season, Alex Smith might not even be available.
- Would he cost too much for a guy that might still end up starting the season behind Jake Delhomme?
More options at QB to come (as soon as I find the time for another write-up).