I woke up with an idea buzzing around my head. How many quarterbacks in the NFL are capable of making the 49ers offense better than it is with Alex Smith in charge? And who are they? Here are 15 off the top of my head – i.e. almost half the starters in the league in sort of an order:

Aaron Rodgers

Drew Brees

Tom Brady

Peyton Manning

Eli Manning

Ben Roethlisberger

Tony Romo

Philip Rivers

Cam Newton

Andrew Luck

Matthew Stafford

Joe Flacco

Michael Vick

Matt Ryan

Matt Schaub

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  1. kk

    Questionable ones on the list

    Vic – Durability
    Ryan – stats very similar to alex
    Newton – too soon. i think he will regress this year when teams have game film to game plan against
    Luck – No way not till 2014
    Schaub – Never healthy

    Alex is around 10

    July 17th, 2012 10:17 am

  2. Cindy

    Matt Ryan can’t win a playoff game. I would rather have Alex over him.

    July 17th, 2012 10:40 am

  3. Brandon Conway

    Please. Smith is clearly near the bottom 2-3 of the Top 10 after last season.

    Traditional rating: http://espn.go.com/nfl/statistics/player/_/stat/passing/sort/quarterbackRating/year/2011/seasontype/2

    I also love the “adjusted QBR” stats found here, where Smith has a rating of 107.0 (7th overall): http://www.footballsfuture.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=494207

    Notice how Smith’s WR/TEs had the same number of dropped passes as Rodgers despite throwing 50 or so less passes.

    July 17th, 2012 11:09 am

  4. Brandon Conway

    Furthermore, notice how Brees had his WRs/TEs drop three LESS passes depsite having OVER 200 more attempts than Smith. Brees is fantastic, but his WRs last year helped him FAR more than Smith’s.

    July 17th, 2012 11:14 am

  5. MJ

    No. No. and did I say, NO?

    Brees, Brady, Eli, Rothlisberger, and Rogers are the only qb’s who’d be a true upgrade over Smith. All others have too many questions from injury/durability(Peyton, Shaub, Vick) to inexperience (Newton/Luck) to having attitude problems (Rivers) or lack of the clutch gene (Romo).

    Ryan and Flacco are on the same level as Alex after this last season. Neither an improvement nor a step back, and I think have the mentality to play under Harbaugh.

    We all know Smith is a lightning rod for blogs. Guess the last few blog posts didn’t garner many replies so go back to the well that is Alex Smith. And yes, I know, I fell into the trap.

    July 17th, 2012 11:14 am

  6. Dan

    I hope you’re wrong, but my gut tells me that you’re probably close to being right.

    July 17th, 2012 11:29 am

  7. Dennis

    With about half of these quarterbacks on the list I would have to ask, what are you basing this on? Take Joe Flacco, what did he do that makes him better than Alex? Football season must be around the corner because it feels like Alex bashing time has just arrived!

    July 17th, 2012 11:45 am

  8. KauaiRobert

    None of whom can be had via either trade or free agency.
    The point is moot.
    Alex is the QB.
    Accept it.

    July 17th, 2012 11:46 am

  9. Mark M

    Plus, off the top of my head:

    Sam Bradford
    Jay Cutler
    Andy Dalton
    Carson Palmer

    July 17th, 2012 12:31 pm

  10. nova4ess

    Mr. Cohn,
    When are you going to note that Alex Smith was a good fit for the 49ers last year, and likely will be a good fit for them this year.

    He rarely turned the ball over, and as much as some despise the term, game manager, this was perfect for what the 49ers were. If the offense and STs would keep the defense in good field position, the 49ers defense and ST would win the day for the 49ers.

    However, the reverse was true, too. If the 49ers defense and STs kept the offense in good field position, the 49ers offense and ST would win the day. Alex Smith was an important reason why the 49ers were one game away from the Super Bowl. I didn’t say THE reason, I said he was an important cog for the team.

    Now, this is a new year. The defense may not be so dominant. The 49ers kicking game may not be so accurate. But I learned in the playoff win over the Saints, Alex is certainly capable of leading a productive offense just as well as half of the QBs you mentioned in your blog – especially with a year under Harbaugh.

    Give the guy some credit. He’s very good for what the 49ers needed last year, and likely this year.

    July 17th, 2012 1:20 pm

  11. Taylor

    Here is the Jaws list of QB rankings starting at

    No. 15 Cam Newton
    No. 14 Matthew Stafford
    No. 13 Matt Schaub
    No. 12 Michael Vick
    No. 11 Matt Ryan
    No. 10 Tony Romo
    No. 9 Joe Flacco
    No. 8 Jay Cutler
    No. 7 Philip Rivers
    No. 6 Ben Roethlisberger
    No. 5 Eli Manning
    No. 4 Peyton Manning
    No. 3 Tom Brady
    No. 2 Drew Brees
    No. 1 Aaron Rodgers

    Is it just me or did Cohn simply replace Cutler with Luck and call this list his own? And seriously, luck has not even played one game in the nfl and he is already better than Alex. That can only be described as ridiculous.

    July 17th, 2012 1:31 pm

  12. CohnZohn

    Taylor, I never saw this list until you posted it. The similarity between this list and mine must mean this list is self-evident. I don’t see the name Alex Smith on this list.

    July 17th, 2012 1:35 pm

  13. Streetglide

    Aaron Rodgers Yes, of course
    Drew Brees: Maybe, No, kind of beat up
    Tom Brady: Old, immobile
    Peyton Manning: See above
    Eli Manning: No too goofy
    Ben Roethlisberger: Another warhorse and stupid to boot
    Tony Romo: Yer kidding right?
    Philip Rivers: No, guy is a loser
    Cam Newton: A bit thick in the caboola, don’t see it
    Andrew Luck: Who knows?
    Matthew Stafford: Mr. Hospital?
    Joe Flacco??? Ha-Ha-Ha…
    Michael Vick: He’ll be out of the league before 2013 and back to hanging dogs.
    Matt Ryan: No!
    Matt Schaub: Who???
    Sorry. Did your son put you up to this? ;- ) Bottom line is the only QB I’d take over Smith would be Rogers. Here…A bunch of ;;; for you. -L-

    July 17th, 2012 1:37 pm

  14. Stan

    I remember last spring I posted that Matt Maiocco had “changed” on Alex Smith and was going along with the “Too many coaches and new systems” And you then wrote that Maiocco was still a Smith critic.
    Man,have things changed. Between last year and his public deeds..I almost like the guy.

    July 17th, 2012 1:37 pm

  15. Stan

    If Alex endorses Obama,I might not ever say Smiths name in anger ever again!

    July 17th, 2012 1:39 pm

  16. Taylor

    Cohn, Alex Smith was 16th…. so like Jaws you picked 15 QB’s better than smith.

    July 17th, 2012 6:21 pm

  17. Taylor


    Your comment about Drew Brees is “maybe, kind of beat up”. Are you saying its even questionable that Brees would not be an improvement over Smith? Cmon man.

    I am happy going forward with Smith this year, but if I could swap him for Brees I would do it in a hot second.

    July 17th, 2012 6:23 pm

  18. Taylor


    One more thing. I would rather have Alex Smith than any of those QB’s. And here is why. Because if we signed a star QB like Brees, Brady, Rogers, or Manning we would have to decimate our defense to afford it. What we have now works.

    Consider this. Mathew Stafford is only ranked two spots higher than Smith in the ratings (at least by jaws) and yet he currently has a price tag of 12-14 million. We get a guy two spots lower for only 8 million per year. Or 12 million per year (roughly) less than Brady, Brees, or Manning.

    I love the makeup of our team and the depth we have. Of course having Aaron Rodgers would be awesome, but not if we have to jettison 12 million worth of other players. No way, no how.

    So really isnt this moot?

    July 17th, 2012 6:35 pm

  19. chris

    Alex Smith was a great fit last year along with the entire roster……..before Harbaugh showed up, the 49ers roster was a bunch of average or just above average players, except for Patrick Willis. Harbaugh was the reason why Smith and the rest were just a fumble away from bieng a Super Bowll team. But eventually, teams will figure out how to beat a Harabugh coached team and he’ll need a top 10 QB as well as other postiions. They’ve got WR headed in the right direction, but the rest of the team is the same as last year so I see a drop off from last year in 2012.

    July 17th, 2012 9:00 pm

  20. Albert Park

    KauaiRobert is spot on. None of these guys are available to the 49ers for love (hah!) or money. So let’s learn to love Alex for another year or so. Maybe he’ll actually get good!

    July 17th, 2012 9:48 pm

  21. Johnc

    What timing. I just happened to look at the 49er schedule for this year and I had a sinking feeling in my stomach realizing Smith will have to outplay these teams. Then I came across your blog rating quarterback. Yes , they are all better than Smith. More sinking feeling in the stomach…..

    July 18th, 2012 12:50 am

  22. MJ


    Really, Pat Willis was the only player that was more than above average before Harbaugh showed up? I think Vernon, Frank, Justin, Andy Lee, Brian Jennings, Staley, and a few others would like to speak to you.

    Yes, under Harbaugh, the rest of the roster jelled and excelled unlike under Sing, and Nolan for a few, but saying that Willis was the only above average player does a disservice to a lot of the teams core.

    And why is it that Smith couldnt be a top 15, top 10 level qb. Statistically he was a top 15 qb last year, what makes everyone so confident his ceiling was reached? Every single season since he was drafted has been an improvement over the previous. TDs went up, Ints went down, completion and qb rating also trended upward. Last year was a huge jump, so why, in a 2nd season, with an improved array of weapons on offense, with a true offseason and a more creative and aggressive game plan, can Alex not rise to the level of half the guys on this list? He was a #1 pick for a reason, Drew Brees wasn’t, Tom Brady wasn’t, Romo, Rivers, Rothlisberger, and about 10 others on that list weren’t. You don’t fluke into being an “overall #1 pick”.

    July 18th, 2012 6:27 am

  23. Joe Willie

    Wow, most of the commenters here seem delusional. Every starting QB in the league except Carson Palmer and 8-10 backup QBs are better than Alex Smith. The team won in spite of Alex last year, not because of him. With a real QB, this is the best team in the league.

    July 19th, 2012 1:44 pm

  24. Alan M.

    You’re nuts if you’d rather have Alex Smith than Sam Bradford or Jay Cutler too. Frankly, there’s a lot of other QBs that are a tossup with Smith as well. Alex Smith won last year because of a great coach and a great defense. He’s smart, but he hasn’t got the instincts or physical talent to win. Just not to lose. He’s Brad Johnson at best.

    July 19th, 2012 7:04 pm

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