|San Francisco's Alex Smith (left) passed for 3,144 yards last season; Carolina's Cam Newton threw for 4,051.|
"I could absolutely care less on yards per game," Smith said. "I think that is a totally overblown stat because if you're losing games in the second half, guess what, you're like the Carolina Panthers and you're going no-huddle the entire second half. Yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games. That's great. You're not winning, though."
Some people took these comments as a shot at Newton, but I didn't see it that way. I think Smith makes a very good point. What is the No. 1 job of the quarterback? To win games.
Each team is built differently. In the case of the 49ers, they have a top-five defense, a physical offensive line and a powerful running back. They also possess the top special teams unit in the entire league. With all of these assets in place, they don't need Alex Smith to throw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in order for them to win games.
Smith is asked to do two things: protect the football and make 3-4 clutch throws in each game. This is the same formula that the Cowboys used in the mid-1990s. Can you guess how many seasons Troy Aikman tossed more than 20 touchdown passes? One. How many times did Aikman pass for more than 3,500 yards? Zero. Now I'm not saying that Alex Smith is comparable to Troy Aikman as a talent, but he's serving a similar role on his team.
On the other hand, the Panthers don't afford Newton the luxury of playing a cautious brand of football. They don't have a top-five defense -- it's ranked 28th. And it is Cam's responsibility to generate a lot of points. He does this by throwing the ball more and taking more risks. This aggressive style of play leads to more yards and touchdowns, but also more interceptions. As he matures, his decision making will improve, thus reducing the interception totals and (likely) translating into more wins.
What does this all mean? It means that both Smith and Newton are doing exactly what their teams need them to do in order to try and win as many football games as possible.
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