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Jim Harbaugh Believes Alex Smith is 49ers’ Long-term Answer at Quarterback

Jim Harbaugh has proven everywhere he’s been that he’s a great coach. He won at USD, Stanford, and now he’s winning in his first year in San Francisco. He’s not just winning, either; he has the 49ers tied for the second-best record in the league. He’s maximized the defensive talent the team already had, but what’s been most impressive is the success he’s had with Alex Smith.

Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick in the draft, looked like a complete bust his first five seasons. I’ve ripped him up and down every chance I’ve had. But Smith is playing well this year and making me look bad. He has the best record, completion percentage, and touchdown/interception ratio of his career. He has fewer turnovers through 14 games than he had in any previous season, and that includes ones where he played 7 and 11 games.

Harbaugh backed Smith before the season began, called him an “elite quarterback” last month, and now he’s saying he believes Smith is the team’s long-term answer at quarterback. I don’t know if Harbaugh truly means that, or if he’s just trying to continue supporting his QB. People have said part of the reason Smith is playing so well is because Jim has given him a psychological boost with the support.

Harbaugh knows a heck of a lot more about football than I do, and he’s a fantastic coach. If he thinks Alex Smith is the franchise’s long-term answer at quarterback, then he must really believe in him. But I still disagree. Smith has played well this year, but he needs a stellar defense to consistently win. I also can’t envision him repeating this performance next season.

Jim Harbaugh: Frank Gore Deserves a Statue for Breaking Niners Rushing Record

All is well in San Francisco at the moment. With four games remaining in the season, the Niners have already clinched a division title. They are well on their way to a first-round playoff bye and have arguably the best defense in the NFC. When healthy, they also have one of the best running backs in the league — a seventh-year player who just became the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. For that, head coach Jim Harbaugh believes Frank Gore deserves to be enshrined.

“There should be a statue to Frank,” Harbaugh said according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Maybe with the new stadium … A life-size statue of him in one of those cool positions he gets in – about 6 inches off the ground, or a leg going one way, and the other going the other, twisting and turning. It’s just so cool. It’s just so cool to slow the tape down and watch what he does.”

Nothing against Frank, but his franchise record has to be one of the most underwhelming of all time.  Being the franchise leader in anything is an accomplishment to be proud of, but I don’t think I’d go giving a guy a statue when he has 7,396 career rushing yards.  Then again, the coach making those comments was the same one who called Alex Smith an elite quarterback.  Taking it to the next level with player praise is nothing new for Harbaugh.  With a record of 10-2 and an NFC West crown after Week 13, who are we to question his style?

Jim Harbaugh Says Alex Smith is an Elite NFL Quarterback

Through the halfway point of the 2011 NFL season, the 49ers have to be the most surprising team in the league.  They play in by far the weakest division in football but have only faced one opponent from that division.  Despite some tough games against teams like the Bengals, Bucs, Eagles, and Lions, San Francisco has the second-best record in football behind only the defending Super Bowl champions.  You may have picked them to win the NFC West, but no one called 7-1 after eight games.

Believe it or not, Alex Smith has been a huge part of their success. To his credit, Jim Harbaugh has stuck with Smith since he took over.  Many believe it is Harbaugh’s confidence that has led to Smith’s success, which is a definite possibility.  In any event, Harbaugh obviously thinks very, very highly of his quarterback after eight games.

“I think people that know football and understand the game appreciate Alex Smith as a very talented quarterback,” the 49ers coach said according to CBSSports.com. “He’s every bit the elite quarterback as there is playing in the game right now.”

It doesn’t take a genius — even a disgruntled Niners fan — to know that Smith is not one of the best quarterbacks in football.  He’s on pace to throw for less than 3,000 yards and has only 10 touchdown passes through eight games.  The most important statistic is his two interceptions.  Harbaugh has found a way to perfectly utilize the former first overall pick, and Smith is rewarding him with great results.  In reality, Smith probably isn’t even in the top-10 quarterbacks in the NFL.  But if Harbaugh calling him one of the best signal-callers in the league has led to a 7-1 record, who can blame him?

Jim Harbaugh on Jim Schwartz Handshake: I Shook His Hand too Hard

Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz provided the most entertaining moment of the NFL weekend with their contentious postgame handshake. Harbaugh was enthusiastic after his team’s road win at Detroit. He gave Schwartz a forceful shake complemented by a hand on the back. Schwartz didn’t like the hand in the back, so he followed Harbaugh towards the locker room tunnel to confront him. Harbaugh can be seen telling Schwartz “Get out of my face.”

Harbaugh said after the game that he was excited about his team’s win. “I was really revved up and I shook his hand too hard,” Harbaugh explained. “It was a strong slap/grab handshake kind of like what I have been doing with [49ers linebacker Blake] Costanzo and other guys.”

“It was too hard of a handshake,” he admitted.

Harbaugh should have waited until after the handshake to let loose, and Schwartz should have shrugged off the hard shake. But let’s be real: do you think these guys are consciously thinking about how they should behave, or were they just reacting to the outcome of the game? If you think Harbaugh’s celebration was the result of a snub from Schwartz in March, you’re reading way too much into this. Some coaches get excited after wins and get carried away. Some coaches will respond if they feel disrespected.

And let’s be real: isn’t football a lot more fun when coaches get into arguments over postgame handshakes? As long as it’s not a coach cussing out an amateur player, I’m fine with it.

Jim Harbaugh Sends Message to Niners Players with Blue Collar Shirts

If Jim Harbaugh plans to revive a San Francisco 49ers franchise that has not had a winning record since the early part of the decade, a ton of hard work will be required.  The Niners finished 8-8 in 2009 and appeared as though they may finally be headed in the right direction.  However, injuries and poor play set San Francisco back once again last season, resulting in a disappointing 6-10 campaign.

In an attempt to send a message to his new squad, Harbaugh has issued gas station work shirts with personalized name patches to each player on his roster.  The message in handing out the blue-collar shirts is simple: Work hard.

“I love ‘em. They seem to love it to, as you see the guys wearing it,” Harbaugh told the Mercury News. “It’s not real complicated what it stands for — a motivational symbol, if you will.”

If one person needs to take the gesture seriously it’s Alex Smith.  Harbaugh is sticking with Smith despite many critics calling for his head.  All of the teams in the NFL need to work hard to be successful, but the 49ers have to make up for a lack of talent with a strong work ethic if they hope to have a shot at making the playoffs.  Playing in the NFC West never hurts.

Jim Harbaugh Betting on Alex Smith to Start at Quarterback for 49ers

Here I was thinking Jim Harbaugh was some sort of genius coach only to find out he’s planning on having Alex Smith back as his starting quarterback this season. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Harbaugh gave Alex Smith the team’s playbook to prepare for the upcoming season even though he is a free agent.

“Alex is definitely going to have a head start,” Harbaugh said after the draft. “He’s played in the NFL, he’s won games in the NFL. If I’m a betting man, then I’m betting on Alex Smith.”

Maybe Colin Kaepernick (the team’s second-round pick) is the team’s future at quarterback and Harbaugh just realizes he needs time to develop. I sure hope that’s the case because I don’t envision either man being the quarterback of a playoff team. You already know how I feel about Alex Smith as a quarterback, I’m just surprised Harbaugh doesn’t feel the same way. Maybe he hardly watched pro football while he was busy coaching collegiately the past several years. That has to be it.

Jim Harbaugh Says There’s No Hostility with Pete Carroll

When Jim Harbaugh accepted his position as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, one aspect of the news that had me most excited was the continuation of the Harbaugh-Pete Carroll rivalry that was established in the Pac-10. In Harbaugh’s four years at Stanford, he went 3-1 against USC, including a 2-1 head-to-head record against Carroll.

The 2007 win by Harbaugh’s Cardinal was shocking; Stanford was only a 4-8 team and USC was over a 40-point favorite, but the Cardinal nonetheless stunned the Trojans in the Coliseum winning 24-23. Carroll made up for the loss the next year with a 45-23 win at the Farm, but Harbaugh got revenge in 2009 — Carroll’s last season with USC. Stanford didn’t just win that game, they ran up the score to 55-21.

After Carroll got a taste of what he had been doing to the rest of the Pac-10 the previous five years, he infamously asked Harbaugh during their handshake “What’s your deal?” Harbaugh responded with “What’s your deal?” The result was one of the most humorous post-game exchanges between two coaches, and a brilliant ticket plan by Stanford.

Unfortunately, despite what you may be thinking, Harbaugh says there’s no beef with Carroll. According to The Seattle Times, when asked about Carroll, Harbaugh said “Professional. No hostility. Competitive when we coached against each other in college, and I anticipate it will be competitive as we go forward playing each other twice a year. But genuine respect for the job that he does.”

So what do you think? Is Harbaugh just playing nice, or do you think things are smoothed out? If I know Harbaugh at all, he’s dying to beat Carroll, and vice versa. He’s just being p.c., that’s my guess.