Monday, October 10, 2005

No. 1 bad, boy

As 49ers rookie quarterback Alex Smith went under center in the second quarter against the Colts, CBS's Dick Enberg observed, "There's a lot to like about this young guy." On cue, Smith zipped a beautiful pass to wide-open Indianapolis linebacker Cato June, who ran it back for a touchdown. That was the kind of day Alex Smith had Sunday. Smith, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, was making his first start, and it appeared the Colts defense was going to make him earn his $51 million one nickel at a time. The numbers were brutal: 9 completions on 23 attempts for 74 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions.

Every rookie quarterback has rough days, as the former No. 1 pick on the other side of the field from Smith could attest. Peyton Manning would probably tell Smith that there's no place for him to go but up. Lord knows, with an 8.5 passer rating, there certainly isn't much room to fall. Here's how Smith's first start stacks up against the six other QBs who were picked No. 1 overall since the elder Manning in 1998:

2005A. SmithSF9-23740 48.5 1/5INDL
2004E. ManningNYG17-371621 245.0 1/10ATLL
2003C. PalmerCIN18-272482 1105.2 2/1at NYJL
2002D. CarrHOU10-221452 178.7 1/1DALW
2001M. VickATL4-12321 070.1 1/9DALW
1999T. CouchCLE12-241341 080.8 1/2at TENL
1998P. ManningIND21-373021 358.6 1/1MIAL
(FS=Season and game of first start. Opp=opponent in first start.)

There isn't a very polite way to put this, but these are awful numbers for Smith. But he was out there with an awful team. Carson Palmer had a full year to learn how to be a pro QB. And Eli Manning and Michael Vick got more than half a season. On the other hand, Peyton Manning, David Carr and Tim Couch were pretty much thrown right in the deep end with atrocious teams, and they were able to throw touchdowns (to someone wearing the same color clothes as them, that is). If there's any consolation for Smith, it's that Couch had a nice start but finished disastrously. It could just as easily work in the other direction.

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