Panthers linebacker Jon Beason fired back at Smith, reminding him the 49ers were hot on the trail of Peyton Manning this offseason. 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis responded, telling anyone who would listen that he wouldn't trade his winning signal-caller for any other. We tend to agree with Smith's take: Passing yards don't matter more than wins. They never will.
Newton, by the way, only registered three 300-yard games, but all this back and forth begs the question: Are passing yards overrated? Not according to some recent numbers:
• Mike Sando of ESPN.com blogged about this Tuesday. He revealed that teams with a 300-yard passer went 180-141 over the past three seasons.
• In games featuring a lone 300-yard passer, quarterbacks crossing that mark are 132-93 since 2009.
• In the 48 games featuring two 300-yard passers, the quarterback with the fewer yards went 29-19, but it still took a big day through the air to win.
Smith is hoisting up his team's 13-3 record last season as evidence against the pass-or-die model in today's NFL. Smith was a revelation last season, but he also was the exception, not the rule. The 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars were the only two teams without a single 300-yard passing performance in 2011. This isn't a working model over the long haul.
The 49ers aren't willing to push their luck again in 2012. Coach Jim Harbaugh has added Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and rookie A.J. Jenkins to the receiving mix. Throwing for 183.1 yards per game (fourth-worst in the league) won't fly. Whether Smith values passing yards or not, he'll be asked for more of them in 2012.