Former San Francisco 49ers No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith has handled enough adversity to last an NFL career, yet he’s still over one year away from reaching his 30th birthday.
In addition to dealing with having his best professional season to date only to be benched in favor of a second-year player, Smith had to follow a coaching carousel that saw him deal with six different offensive coordinators in six years before that. Now, one of his former teammates, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, is piling on on top of all of it.
That’s because Crabtree, who had a breakout season of his own in 2012, starting all 16 games and totaling 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns, told the NFL Network on Tuesday that he had a definitive reason why he had more success with Colin Kaepernick under center than he did Smith.
“I think he trusted me more,” he said. “Playing wide receiver, you need a quarterback who trusts you. I feel like he trusted me.”
In the inevitable follow-up, he doubled back when asked whether or not it was a jab at Smith. But the damage was done with his first statement.
It’s an indictment on the state of Smith and Crabtree’s relationship. The numbers tell some of the story. In 8 1/2 games with Smith under center, Crabtree caught 43 passes for 459 yards and four touchdowns, yet bolstered those totals to 62 catches for 931 yards and eight scores in 10 1/2 contest with Kaepernick at the helm. Crabtree became an instant threat and a reliable possession receiver at the end of last season.
But the Niners were successful largely because of the dynamic playmaking ability that Kaepernick has as a dual threat. Smith has some of that element in his game, but the former Nevada star has more raw talent. At this point, the Niners were smart to roll the dice with the slightly younger, more gifted athlete.
So, in a sense, Crab’s words were wrong, but they were also effectively right.
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