SANTA CLARA – Five minutes after Jim Harbaugh declared Alex Smith an expert in the 49ers’ offense, Smith took the podium in the media tent. Here is the transcript of Smith’s press conference, courtesy of the 49ers.
Your coach just described you as an expert in this offense. He said that it usually takes two years, you cut that in half. How do you feel about, as far as just your mastery of the offense?
“It’s better than it was a year ago. Yeah, I feel like I’ve progressed. When you’re playing quarterback, I feel like you’re always just working to get better and to learn. It’s never-ending. So, a lot left to learn.”
Do you feel like you know more about this offense than you have any other previous NFL offense?
“Yeah, for sure. No question.”
What aspect of it are you more comfortable with this year? Is there any part of the process?
“The details, I think. It always just comes down to the details. It’s not drawing up something on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper. It’s not just notes. It’s all the little details of the execution. What’s really going on on the field, all of those things. I think the other part of it is just getting a good understanding of intent. Getting a great feel for G.Ro [Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman] and why we’re calling stuff and what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to get out of it. So, I feel like I’m better at handling those situations.”
Has that helped when you’ve got some new receivers and some new personnel to have that grasp of the offense? To be able to make that come together pretty quickly?
“Well, it allows you to focus more on them, on the new faces. When everybody’s new, everybody’s kind of focusing on their own deal. For us that have been in it for a year and you’re bringing in new guys you’re able to kind of get more detailed with them, as far as what’s going on and how we’re doing things.”
How challenging is that to have several new receivers, for a quarterback?
“That’s going to be every single year. There won’t be one year where—I’ve never had it. It’s just the nature of the game. And that’s at every single position, not just receivers. It’s every position really, for the most part. Year in and year out you’ve got to adjust. There’s going to be new faces coming in, guys learning. I don’t think it’s a bad thing because like I said, we’re not going to be the same team we were last year. Things change, we evolve. The offense evolves. You’re going to continue to try to get better and improve.”
Doesn’t a quarterback and receiver need a special connection, more so than other positions?
“Yes and no. I mean, yeah of course. But, every situation’s different. Some quarterbacks see things differently. Some receivers are different as well. Everybody is unique. It’s just the nature of the game at this level.”
Is there a different feeling around here knowing you’re expected to be in the hunt for a Super Bowl?
“The way it works here, we have higher expectations and have our own expectations. I don’t think we pay much attention, I really don’t, to what else is going on. To what people, what they’re guessing, what they think we’re going to finish. We all know what they thought we were going to finish last year and how right they were about that. So, it’s no different this year. It’s all about what we expect and we have to go out there and we have to do it. So, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else is thinking.”
On the field does WR Randy Moss show you certain things to tell you this guy’s really happy to be back, running routes and doing the football thing?
“I don’t know if there’s any one thing. I think the joy of the game comes out for sure. You can see it out there, how much he likes being out there. How much he likes being around his teammates. He’s got a great sense of humor, but he’s out there working. I’ve said this many times about him, the guy communicates really well. Sees things really well on the field, comes back. So, it’s great to have that line of communication. But for sure, you can see how much he enjoys being out there with everybody.”
How much more comfortable are you in the second year in the offense and that you’ve had a whole offseason and training camp?
“Hard to quantify I guess. Definitely a lot more than last year, for sure. It would be hard for me just to tell you. I think we’re all ahead of the game. But, this has been said before, it doesn’t guarantee us anything. But for sure, we’re much more comfortable than last year coming off the lockout. At this point last year in the second preseason game, we’re still installing, still learning. Not even close I guess.”
Obviously we’ve paid a lot of attention to Randy. What does WR Mario Manningham bring? Also another sort of established receiver who is proven in the league. How has that acclimation gone for you and him?
“I think it’s gone really well, especially this last week. I really feel like he’s just continuing to get a better grasp of the offense, what we’re doing. One thing physically that jumps out, I think, is his route running. The guy’s a very disciplined route runner. Really understands leverage, how defenses are playing him, a DB’s leverage. Has a great knack for route running in and out of breaks, things like that.”
You mentioned last week, I haven’t been here every day, but I was told you’ve had some really good practices. Any examples of this week, maybe something that clicked?
“I think exactly that. Just a really good understanding of timing, what we’re doing. And like I said, especially individually cuts, just a great job of getting open, really understands leverage, DB leverage, and attacks it well.”
QB Alex Smith it seems like this week the ball didn’t hit the ground very many times in the passing game. Is that something that you took note of, is that something that that you guys take a lot of pride in?
“For sure, yeah, absolutely, especially with a lot of the red zone we did this week. Much better if we are taking shots, it’s our guys or nobody. I think just better decision making as a group and for the quarterback room this week in general. Even today, a very clean day, not many balls hit the ground. When they did they were good shots, not being carless with the football. We have been for most of camp. We had kind of a two day window there, whatever that was last week, the week before where the defense got after us pretty good. Especially this week’s been very clean and that’s a credit to the whole offense, but especially the guys in the quarterback room. Everybody has a good understanding of the offense. I know Coach Harbaugh said this, I have never seen it where you can throw in any one of these guys and practice doesn’t fall off. Every single one of these guy has such a good grasp of the offense, works extremely hard at it, can step in and runs efficiently. It’s a credit to those three guys.”
It’s training camp, but you are playing for the most part against your own defense. Can you remember a time or does it just feel better running the offense and having a passing game that’s so efficient and so spot on?
“It’s hard to tell, last camp is probably the last time we really went against our defense. It was tough to really get after them at that point. Like you said, you are learning it for the first time. It’s been fun to have that battle this year, to have that competitiveness, O and D in general, but it’s fun. [WR Michael] Crabtree and [CB] Carlos [Rogers], it’s a ton of fun to hear those guys going back and forth. Offense and defense in general to have that competitiveness on the field that every day it was something, whether it be red zone, short yardage, third down, goal line, two minute, something that we are going out there and getting competitive with the defense. It’s a great test for us, but it’s fun to get some success and get after them a little bit.”
Does Head Coach Jim Harbaugh want it to be that O vs. D mentality?
“Not at all, no. In fact he’s the opposite; very much squashing it It’s a great competitiveness out here. This isn’t something where anything gets taken too far. You guys see it, we don’t have any of the team brawls and stuff that go on a lot of places. We’ve got a great locker room, great group of guys. But it’s fun to get competitive sometimes and get after each other. It’s good. It’s a lot of fun out there.”
So do you agree with him you are an expert now in this offense?
“No, not at all. A lot to learn.”