SANTA CLARA — Here’s what Jim Harbaugh said about Alex Smith during his Tuesday press conference. Read it, and then I have a few questions for you below.
Q: The turnover differential – is that something you’ve harped on with Alex Smith since day one?
HARBAUGH: “Well, coached it. And Alex has a great understanding. Veteran player, experienced player who understands situational football and good football and the difference between holding onto the ball and turning it over. He’s also been uncanny in the pocket when he’s been hit or sacked not giving up the sack-fumble, the big momentum turnover that can lead to a change of field position, put points on the board for the opposition. He’s been outstanding in that regard.”
Q: How do you coach a guy not to give up a sack-fumble?
HARBAUGH: “There’s no dramatic drill work that you can do. It’s his understanding first of all to take care of the football, his experience understanding to clutch the ball when there’s pressure, get two hands on it in the pocket – good fundamentals. And I think also, I say it goes back to situational football, there are some people that are just concerned with statistics. You’ve got to have a 300 yard passing game. You’ve got to take your play to the next level. And for quarterbacks that comes a lot with being judged by yards thrown or touchdowns thrown. (Smith is a) consummate team player. Understands that that’s not how we’re measuring a quarterback. The only statistic really that matters is winning.”
Q: You made a case last night for Alex Smith as a Pro Bowl quarterback. Do you trust that the coaches and the players who vote won’t be swayed by the huge passing numbers or the number of touchdowns and look at the things that you just talked about?
HARBAUGH: “It’s possible. That’s the low-hanging fruit – just go right to the yardage line or the touchdown passes line. I think people that understand football understand that there’s a lot more that goes into the job of a quarterback than those statistics. Whenever a player’s just thinking about statistics, whether it be sacks or yardage, those kind of agendas – interceptions – they can often hurt the team. But we’ll see. There’s other great players out there in the National Football (Conference). I believe there’s three that go to the Pro Bowl, right? Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Alex Smith – I think those are the top three in the NFC in my humble opinion.”
Q: Why are you bringing up the Pro Bowl now? You’ve got the rest of the season to go – Why is this important to you at this time?
HARBAUGH: “There’s a body of work. I think the thing that’s important to us is the team, but I also think that there’s individual efforts that need to be highlighted, so that’s why. And there’s other guys. Justin Smith I believe is our most valuable player. He had a great game in this football game. Did a lot of things really well. Kicked ass, really. And he’s been doing it all year. Aldon Smith had a terrific game. Great pressure rushing. Aldon’s really separated himself as a pass rusher, first-year player in this league. And also Justin, I mean Justin on a lot of those stunts is eating up blockers and Aldon comes around and does a great job beating the center in this particular game. There’s a lot of individual play that I think just needs to be highlighted. That’s why I bring it up.”
Q: Do you think that Alex Smith is the long term quarterback for the 49ers as the starter?
HARBAUGH: “I do.”
Ok, this is Grant. First of all, setting aside that long-term bombshell, do you agree that Smith should be a Pro Bowler this season?
I don’t. Smith is having a very good season – 91.1 QB rating (ninth best) and 11 wins. He’s having a better season than I ever could have imagined him having.
But is he having a better season than Eli Manning? Manning has slightly higher QB rating (91.7), and he has the worst running game in the NFL, plus a bad defense. Oh, and he’s thrown for almost twice as many yards as Alex Smith has (4,362 to 2,752).
Is Smith having a better season than Matthew Stafford, who also has no run game, and whose QB rating is 93.8?
What about Tony Romo, whose QB rating is 102.6?
And what about Cam Newton, who’s thrown for 3,722 yards, rushed for 609 and scored 30 total touchdowns? The Niners entire offense has scored 27 touchdowns this season.
Would the Niners be a worse team if Eli Manning was their quarterback? Or Cam Newton? I say no way. They’d be better.
One more question: If Harbaugh really believes Smith is the long-term quarterback for the 49ers, why did the team trade up to draft a QB in the second round of this year’s draft? What’s the point of Colin Kaepernick?