McCloughan’s latest thoughts on Smith’s future

Remember when GM Scot McCloughan said Alex Smith would not return to the 49ers in 2009 if he did not head into the offseason as the starter?

OK, whether you remember or not, here’s the refresher from Sept. 3:


Q: If, knowing what a big hit he would be on your salary cap next year, would you conceivably bring him back if he were not your starter?

McCloughan: “You can’t. You can’t. That’s something (that’s true) at any position. The amount of money we’re going to invest in him, he’d have to be proven that he is the guy – that when we get to the offseason, he’s our guy for next year.”


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Well, McCloughan was not as definitive about Smith’s future when I spoke with him today. He said if Smith were willing to take a dramatic pay cut from his scheduled $9.625 million salary the discussions would be “wide open, no doubt about it.”


As for Smith’s thoughts on the subject . . . he has declined interview requests since the beginning of the season when he was placed on injured reserve.


Here’s a Q&A with the 49ers main man McCloughan:


Q: What do you hope to see from the team in the second half of the season?

McCloughan: “It’s important to see positives. (Such as) a group of guys playing together and having success together; acting like it’s not just a job but it’s a sport and they’re having fun at it. The key thing is we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. We can’t be undisciplined and have excess turnovers because that means we’re not building momentum. As soon as we do something, we do something negative and we can’t build on it. As bad as the first half feels at 2-6, we got eight games left and we can flip the momentum, but it has to start with the guys having success together and building off it each week.”


Q: Everything about the organization will be on display Monday night. Is this is big game just for how the nation will perceive the 49ers?

McCloughan: “It is, but even if it’s not a Monday night, the first half we did not have the kind of success we wanted. No matter who we’re playing or when it is, we have to play the kind of football we’re capable of playing and build off the successes we’ve had and not make the negatives even worse.”


Q: Where do things stand as far as the future of the 49ers’ quarterback situation?

McCloughan: “It’s very vital and it’s proven out around the league for many years that you have to have consistency at the quarterback position, especially if you have some youth on offense. It’s so important to have consistency from whoever’s calling the plays to whoever’s running the plays. That’s important, whether your play-caller is the head coach or offensive coordinator. And the most important guy running the plays is the quarterback. We need to keep re-evaluating the position, as we always do and make sure we do what’s best not just for the short term but the long term so we have that consistency at the quarterback position.”


Q: What’s Alex’s future?

McCloughan: “He can’t come back for the money he’s at. We know that. It’s just common sense. It’s too bad that he hasn’t been able to do it on the field, so we can say, ‘Yes, he can,’ or ‘No, he can’t.’ It’s taken some injuries to knock him out of his play time. The different systems he’s been in have held him back, and held the offense back, from being as productive as they can be over a four-year span. I still believe Alex is going to be a good quarterback in this league.”


Q Can it be here?

McCloughan: “It could be here, certainly.”


Q: Have you had those contract talks yet?

McCloughan: “We really haven’t. It’s something we’re going to need to address as we get through this. Right now, I’m worried more about what’s happening on the field today because we do have a lot of football left. But as we get closer to the end of the season, I’ll start looking to the future. There will be some discussions to take place.”


Q: Is it a good sign that he wanted to remain here throughout the entire season?

McCloughan: “I don’t know that. His personality and the kind of guy he is, he feels like he’s part of this. That’s one thing you respect about Alex. He came in with a lot of these guys as rookies and he feels an obligation to be out here and support them. That’s the one thing coach (Mike) Nolan built in the locker room was a family atmosphere that we’re in this together. You can ask Alex and he’ll tell you with a smile on his face that he’s here to help these guys win football games. And anything he can do to help out, he’ll do that.”


Q: Whomever is the head coach next season, will that person have a large say in what’s done?

McCloughan: “It all depends which route we take at the end of the season. Right now, coach (Mike) Singletary is head coach for the rest of the season and Mike Martz is offensive coordinator, and he’s under contract through next year. We want success. We want to finish the season with success and go from there. Coach Martz and I have spoken many times about what he’s looking for at certain positions on offense. With each coordinator you bring there, there are always different qualities they’re looking for in players at certain positions. I’ve been picking his brain as we go through this. Even for the rest of the year, we’ll try to get guys who fit what he likes to do to make the offense more successful.”


Q: And what’s the feeling about how Alex fits?

McCloughan: “The way coach Martz speaks about him to this day, it’s too bad he’s not healthy. He’d be playing him now. He sees a lot of positives. With the youth of Alex, it means there’s still a lot to develop and work on. And with Alex, he’s eager to work on it. He wants to soak it in and get better. I know Alex likes the system and likes working with coach Martz.”


Q: With the consistency of the play-calling that you mentioned, isn’t it imperative that you hire an offensive head coach:

McCloughan: “You can look at it that way. Also, there are coordinators who have been with head coaches for a long time. Tony Dungy (and Tom Moore) is a good example, and he’s a defensive coach. It’s getting in a situation where everything comes together and stays together.”


Q: You said at the press conference a couple weeks ago that all the blame does not fall on Nolan’s shoulders. Do you take responsibility for what has happened, too?

McCloughan: “Oh, yeah. No doubt about it. I’m part of building this roster and bringing players here, through the draft or free agency or re-signing guys and letting guys go. I’m a big part of it. It’s hard to go through these stretches because it affects you. The head coach, it falls on his shoulders because he signs on and if it’s not successful, it’s the head coaches fault. But it’s not all his fault. It’s the fault of everybody who touches this team on a daily basis that we’re not as good as we can be. We all have to do what we can do to get better.”


Q: Personally, what can you do to get better?

McCloughan: “I think just keep going through our roster and find out if we have made mistakes, how come? Why weren’t they successful? I’ll keep picking coach Martz’s brain and coach (Greg) Manusky’s brain to see what they think they need to have success in their systems.”


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