A season ago, while Eli Manning was winning his second Super Bowl ring and silencing his critics in New York, several other quarterbacks were trying to prove that they have what it takes to be a Super Bowl champion.
Guys like Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, and Matthew Stafford are all working towards that gloried Super Bowl appearance. And with a victory, they hope to avoid the dubious Dan Marino comparisons regarding never winning a ring when their respective careers come to an end.
Several “ringless” NFL quarterbacks had terrific seasons last year, which got me thinking: who’s got the best shot at winning their first Super Bowl this year?
My answer may surprise you.
While many will say that Schaub, Romo, and Stafford are at the top of the ringless list to be Super Bowl contenders in 2012, along with Joe Flacco and Michael Vick, my quarterback comes from out West.
Are you shocked?
Smith had a great season a year ago, achieving career high statistics in passing yards (3,144), QB rating (90.7), and completion percentage (61.3). Smith also had his best touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2011 (3.4-1).
While his stats may not overly impress NFL fans or earn him a spot as the league MVP, Smith showed real maturity last season under head coach Jim Harbaugh. He played well enough to lead his team to the NFC Championship game.
In fact, if it weren’t for those two special teams blunders against the Giants, it’s possible Smith wouldn’t even be eligible for this discussion this season.
Yes, most of the reason the 49ers were so good a year ago was because of the defense, which allowed a little over 14 points per game. And yes, San Francisco did have an effective running back in Frank Gore who ran for over 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
But the focus of this post is which quarterback has the best chance on winning a Super Bowl this season, not who has a better shot at breaking the passing touchdown record.
If that were the case, I’d be picking Stafford to lead the charge. After all, he does have Calvin Johnson in his corner.
The biggest key for Smith last season was regaining confidence. He finally put together a season that was not defined by error-heavy stats and boneheaded plays. Smith earned the faith of his head coach and his teammates, and he was able to lead the offense effectively while minimizing turnovers.
It was a huge step for the 49ers and their quarterback.
San Francisco went 13-3 last year, and while I don’t necessary believe they will notch the 13-win mark again, I do believe they will be a double-digit win team that competes for another conference championship this year.
Even though I don’t expect Smith to put up MVP-type numbers, I do expect him to continue to blossom and develop into the quarterback we thought we’d see when he was playing college football in Utah.
And to lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance.