A lot has been said about the San Francisco 49ers statistics this past year. Some have been good reviews on statistics and some have been bad reviews on statistics. And most of them have been very poignant and well thought out. Unfortunately, many of those statistic hounds focus on the year leading up to free agency. Sure 49ers kicker David Akers had his worst season of his career this past year, but how does he rank all time in 49ers kicker history? And what about Alex Smith, where does he rank in 49ers lore? We know he will be leaving the Bay area, but does his rank among the best 49ers quarterbacks warrant a rethinking of the idea? There are all kinds of statistics one can look at to make a decision, but to look beneath them is where the real value of a player lies.
For instance, did you know that Alex Smith was fourth in 49ers history in game winning drives with 12? Yeah, right behind Joe Montana, John Brodie, and Steve Young. Smith is also fourth behind those guys in fourth quarter come backs with ten. And he has only been a starter for two full seasons in his eight years with the franchise. That is a remarkable achievement, even to be on the list with those Hall of Famers is a milestone that should not be overlooked. Imagine if Smith was a starter for even half of his career in San Francisco, he might have held records that could have stood for a long time. Smith has the intangibles that supersede quarterback rating and completion percentage and other statistics that make up a quarterback. He has late game leadership qualities that are only matched by the best quarterbacks in the league. How valuable is that to a team? How does one weigh the value of a player when late game heroics are part of the repute? You cannot, that inner hunger, put the world on my shoulders, fierce competitiveness, is not computable in a statistics meter.
And David Akers, when looked at his statistics against the all time leaders in the field goal department of the 49ers, he is arguably the best they have ever had. Akers in his two years with the club has attempted 94 field goals, and has made 73. That’s a 47 attempts per year average, and he still has a 77.7%. No other kicker in 49ers history even gets close to 47 attempts per year. Tommy Davis, the 49ers field goal attempts career leader attempted 276, and he only made 130. That’s 47.1%, and he played for the team for 11 years, only attempting 25 per year. And the beloved Ray Wershing played for 11 years in a 49ers uniform, he attempted 261 field goal attempts, of which he made 190 for a 72.8%. Still he only kicked about 24 attempts per year. And there are a few more ahead of Akers in the field goals attempted department, none of them get close to his average per year. It’s fair to say that if any of one of those guys had to kick the ball as much as Akers has had to, their percentages would be a lot lower. By the amount of kicks per season compared to his percentage versus the others in 49ers history, Akers is the best they have ever had.
Here’s another eye opener; did you know that Michael Crabtree is third all time in 49ers history in receptions per game? More than Dwight Clark, Brent Jones, John Taylor, Freddie Solomon, Roger Craig, and Vernon Davis. The only two ahead of him are Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens. Crabtree has played for the 49ers for four years, and he is averaging 836.25 yards per season. Unfortunately, his yards per reception are quite a bit lower than Rice and Owens. Meaning he will have to play at least 11 total seasons in a 49ers uniform to move past Owens in career yards. That would give him second place all time. And that’s about as far as his career will take him, he will never catch Rice for first. He would have to play just over 18 years as a 49er to reach that milestone.
Defensively there are some unknown facts as well. Linebacker Patrick Willis is number two on the 49ers all time tackle list with 630. Heading into just his seventh year with the team, he ranks right behind the great Ronnie Lott, who has 721. And with Willis averaging 105 tackles per year, it is feasible that he surpasses Lott this upcoming season. If Willis plays as long as Lott did, ten years, he will end up having around 1000 tackles, again a record that might possibly never be broken by a player in a 49ers uniform.
Even Aldon Smith is becoming a future Hall of Famer in the 49ers organization. In just two years he has catapulted himself to the top of the 49ers list of pass rushers. Right now he has 33.5 sacks for his career. The all time leader is Bryant Young with 89.5. Behind him is Charles Haley with 66.5. Then it’s Dana Stubblefield with 46.5. Then it’s Dwaine Board with 45 and Chris Doleman with 38. Here’s the kicker, all those guys, for the exception of Doleman, played ten or more years with the organization to reach that peak. With an average of 16.5 sacks per year, it will only take Smith just over five years to become the all time leader in that category. If he happens to play for the 49ers for 14 years like Young did, and if he keeps this average up, he will end up with like 230 sacks by the time he retires. Again, probably an untouchable milestone.
To look at statistics is one thing, to look at statistics with an apples to apples mentality is another thing. Not every tale is told by the numbers a player puts up, sometimes it’s by the numbers they are capable of putting up.
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