NEW ORLEANS -- Alex Smith, the backup quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, drew a good-sized crowd Tuesday at Super Bowl media day. Smith led his team to the brink of last year's Super Bowl and to a strong start this year before losing his job to the more dynamic Colin Kaepernick in Week 11, and naturally a lot of people want to know how it feels to be spending Super Bowl week as the backup. Smith is saying all the right things.
People also want to know about Smith's future. With a healthy number of NFL teams in search of a quarterback and Smith likely to be traded or released by the 49ers this offseason, there is speculation in many NFL towns about how he'd fit. On this topic, Smith is saying basically nothing.
"I’m focused on this game and helping this team win a championship and doing whatever I can do," Smith said. "That stuff can wait. There's plenty of time for that in a week."
Maybe, but here on the NFC East blog we're not as interested in the outcome of Sunday's game as Smith is. Philadelphia Eagles fans in particular want to know if Smith would make sense as a potential acquisition for their team at quarterback. I believe he would. He doesn't fit the running-quarterback mold that people have for some reason ascribed to new Eagles coach Chip Kelly's spread offense, but I do think he's shown enough athleticism to function in such a system, and more importantly he has shown enough as a good decision-maker, which I think is the more important thing for a Kelly quarterback to be.
The 49ers succeeded with Smith last year and early this year because they were able to accentuate his strengths and prop him up with a strong support system -- run game, offensive line, defense. With LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown, the Eagles have enough in the run game to keep defenses honest on early downs and stay out of the types of third-and-long situations that don't play to Smith's strengths. Assuming all of their injured offensive linemen come back healthy, they should have a strong line. The defense, of course, remains a major question mark, especially if Kelly proceeds with his apparent plan to impose a 3-4 alignment on the Eagles' 4-3 personnel. But there's a good case to be made that Smith could succeed with the weapons he'd have around him in the Eagles' offense.
A move like this also wouldn't close the door on Nick Foles, a player Kelly has said he likes. Kaepernick obviously developed quickly as a backup behind Smith, and there's nothing to say Foles couldn't do so as well with the proper coaching. Adding a reliable if unspectacular veteran in front of Foles would offer the team more time to figure out what they have in last year's third-round pick without exposing him to game pressure for which he may not be ready.
There are no great solutions on this offseason market for the Eagles or the many other NFL teams who are hunting for help at quarterback. But Smith is one that seems to make some sense for the Eagles. The question is what it will take to get him.
Oh, and one more thing. I found this Phil Sheridan column very interesting. It points up a connection between Smith and Kelly from their college days, and indicates Smith does indeed have successful experience in a Kelly-style spread offense.