NFC West: Neil O'Donnell

49ers' Smith staring down expectations

October, 12, 2012
History had much to say about the San Francisco 49ers' chances for backing up their 13-3 record from last season.

The 2012 team wouldn't force as many turnovers. It wouldn't stay as healthy. And there was certainly no way quarterback Alex Smith would continue throwing interceptions only 1.1 percent of the time, a historically low figure.

The 49ers are 4-1 and on pace for 13 victories. They could still falter for all the suspected reasons, but to this point, Smith has shown no signs he's about to become an interception machine. He has one interception in 137 pass attempts. His interception rate has fallen to 0.7 percent.

A pattern has developed.

Smith has gone 26 consecutive starts without tossing more than one interception in a game. He's two games behind Aaron Rodgers for the longest streak since 1970. Note that Smith's coach, Jim Harbaugh, is also high on the list.

Neil O'Donnell, Jeff Hostetler and Harbaugh are on the list. O'Donnell was the only one of the three to toss more than 12 scoring passes in a season during the streak. O'Donnell topped out at 17, the same number Smith threw last season.

Smith has eight touchdown passes through five games. He leads the NFL in Total QBR and passer rating.

Precedent for how Rams might rebuild

January, 27, 2010
The Rams were the fifth team of the free-agency era to finish with a 1-15 record. Three of the other four won at least seven games the following season. None selected a quarterback in the first round of the next draft.

Here's a quick look at how those four other 1-15 teams responded (I might expand on this down the road):

  • 2007 Dolphins: Fired coach Cam Cameron after one season. Hired Tony Sparano. Used the first overall choice in the 2008 draft on tackle Jake Long. Signed veteran free-agent quarterback Chad Pennington from the Jets. Posted 11-5 record in 2008.
  • 2001 Panthers: Fired coach George Seifert. Hired John Fox. Used second overall choice in 2002 draft for defensive end Julius Peppers. Signed veteran free-agent quarterback Rodney Peete from the Raiders. Posted 7-9 record in 2002, then signed Jake Delhomme before the 2003 season.
  • 2000 Chargers: Traded first overall choice of 2001 draft to Falcons for package including the fifth pick, which San Diego used for LaDainian Tomlinson. Signed veteran quarterback Doug Flutie and used the first pick of the 2001 draft's second round for quarterback Drew Brees. Improved to 5-11 in 2001, then hired Marty Schottenheimer before the 20o2 season.
  • 1996 Jets: Fired coach Rich Kotite. Hired Bill Parcells. Traded the first overall choice in the 1997 draft to the Rams, who drafted Orlando Pace. Traded the sixth overall choice (acquired from Rams) to Tampa Bay for a package including the eighth overall choice, which the Jets used for linebacker James Farrior. Stuck with veteran Neil O'Donnell at quarterback in 1997 (O'Donnell had missed the final 10 games of 1996). Improved to 9-7 in 1997.
Three of the four fired their head coaches. Three of the four signed veteran starting quarterbacks the next off season (the Jets already had one). Something to consider as the Rams decide how to acquire their next quarterback and how to proceed with the first overall choice of the draft.