San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith

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“The Loudest Boo for a Home Team Ever”
(Overcoming Criticism: Lessons from Quarterback Alex Smith)

"The Loudest Boo for a Home Team Ever" is the title of a Youtube video of Alex Smith, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, getting booed one year ago (2010) on his home field by his “fans.” Some in attendance reported that the boos got even worse as the game went on, as they tore down Smith and chanted to bring in the backup quarterback.  

(Check out the video here: .)

Problem was, the fans were frustrated and felt they’d had enough. In the 1980’s and 1990’s the 49ers established themselves as a football dynasty, winning five Super Bowls. But for the past eight seasons they lost more games than they won. Their once storied team had established itself as a perennial loser. How would they ever reach the playoffs with this second rate quarterback? Their cherished dynasty had fallen into disarray.  

Perhaps Alex was doing the best he could under the circumstances. Nobody questioned his work ethic. Perhaps the blame lay with the coaching staff. After all, the team had changed offensive coordinators seven times in the past seven years. Perhaps his offensive line wasn’t giving him enough time to complete passes. Perhaps his shoulder injuries (a separated shoulder, three torn ligaments and a broken bone) kept him from peak performance. Whatever the case, thousands of fans thought he sucked as a quarterback and didn’t mind letting him know.

If Alex reads fan comments on the web, here’s what he’d find in the Youtube booing segment I just mentioned. These acidic comments began a year ago and continued through the start of the 2011 season.  Try to put yourself in Alex Smith’s shoes. Have you felt the chill of cold verbal slams that repeat themselves endlessly in your mind? How would you have felt if the following vicious verbiage had been aimed at you?


“There's only so much incompetence a fan can take, and I cannot stand Alex anymore behind center. He's a joke!”

“Alex Smith is going on what, 6-7 yrs. in the NFL? When is this team going to realize they made a major mistake?”

“Alex Smith should not be starting for any team in the NFL. He set the franchise back 10 years. Should have been cut a long time ago.”

“Worst quarterback of all time.”

“He HAS GOT TO GO!!! Can’t waste another year waiting on him to put it all together.”

“The NFL is just too fast for him. Smith sucks!!!”

“No coach will fix this guy. He's done.”

“Every Niner fan hates Alex Smith.”

“Niner fans hate Alex Smith so much, that they even boo him in practices. And now Harbaugh wants to bring him back for a 7th season! Smith guarantees failure and deserves the boos….”

“He is ONE of the worst QBs in NFL History.”

“They'll never win with Alex at QB. You need like a hundred coaches and twenty years of excuses for this bust.”

“When nuclear war occurs, two things will survive. Cock roaches and Alex Smith. Seriously, how does this guy still have a job?”

Lesser men would have quit after the repeated boos and endless criticism, or at least would have lashed out in response. But Smith patiently endured.  

The Turnaround

This year, finally, he’s glad he endured, and the disparaging fans are eating their words. The 49ers defeated team after team as Smith showed uncanny leadership and completed passes with surgical precision. He threw the fewest interceptions of any quarterback in his league. His passing record was third in the entire NFL. They earned a playoff spot by winning 13 games and losing only three – an amazing season for any NFL team and the Niners best season since 1997.

One month ago, toward the end of their incredible 2011 winning season, the comments magically changed. Here’s what the recent comments on the same Youtube video are saying:

“I won't lie, I was booing him at home, too...But I'm cheering you now, Alex – thanks for proving us wrong and persevering!”

“All these years of being called an idiot and a dreamer have paid off. Now he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.”

So what can we learn from Alex Smith?

1. Don’t let other’s discouraging comments control you.  As the 49ers kicker David Akers said of Smith, “I just see a guy that doesn’t really care too much what people think.”

2. Persevere through the hard times. Tight end Davis said, “He’s a strong man. “I’ve been here when Alex was getting yelled at and everybody was talking bad about him. He tends to keep his head up and just keeps on moving.” 

3. Don’t lash out against your critics or try to get even. “He is proof that a struggling player can remain humble and respectful and still ultimately succeed.”


1. How do you think Alex Smith felt each time that he was booed?

2. What do you think kept him going, even when many people had turned against him?

3. How do we decide when to believe discouraging comments and when to ignore them?

4. Someone has said that the only way to avoid all criticism is to do nothing and say nothing and be nothing. Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

5. How can we endure through criticism?

Sources ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;

Written by J. Steve Miller for , copyright Jan., 2012, all rights reserved.

Alex Smith Character Lessons