Harbaugh might see himself in Alex Smith

Jim Harbaugh during the Lindy Infante stage of his career. -- AP

What does Jim Harbaugh see in Alex Smith? The statistics suggest he might see himself.

I was struck by this after reading this article by ESPN’s Mike Sando, which details Harbaugh’s respect for Lindy Infante, his offensive coordinator and then his head coach in Indianapolis.

After playing his first seven seasons with the Bears, Harbaugh, the 26th overall pick in the 1987 draft, was considered a first-round disappointment. His touchdown to interception ratio: 50-56. His passer rating: 74.2.

But his career began to brighten in 1994 when he landed in Indianapolis with head coach Ted Marchibroda, a former college quarterback who had been an offensive coordinator with five NFL teams.

In 1994, Harbaugh made nine starts and had a career-high quarterback rating of 85.8. In 1995, Infante became the Colts offensive coordinator and Harbaugh led the NFL in passer rating (100.7), was the runner-up in the MVP voting and led Indianapolis to the AFC Championship Game.

This quote in particular stood out as Harbaugh discussed Infante’s influence on his career in Sando’s article.

“I went to the Pro Bowl playing for Lindy and up until that point, I wasn’t thought of as a good quarterback at all,” Harbaugh said. “But coaching made a difference.”

I’d offer that Harbaugh believes coaching will make a difference for Smith, who some don’t believe is a good quarterback at all after six seasons in San Francisco. In fact, Smith’s mediocre numbers are strikingly similar to Harbaugh’s at similar stages in their careers.

Harbaugh’s numbers below are his career statistics after his seven seasons with the Bears:

JIM HARBAUGH (1987-93)
Completion percentage:
58.2 (1,023 of 1,759)
Yards:
11,567
TDs:
50
INTs:
56
QB rating:
74.2

ALEX SMITH (2005-10)
Completion percentage
: 57.1 (864 of 1,514)
Yards:
9,399
TDs:
51
INTs:
53
QB rating:
72.1

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