The question has been asked of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh more than once since his hiring: What does he look for in a quarterback?
Among other qualities, accuracy and decision-making are on Harbaugh’s list, which could help explain why free-agent quarterback Troy Smith appears to be on the way out of San Francisco.
The Niners did not place a restricted free-agent tender on Smith on Wednesday, but did apply it to linebacker Manny Lawson, safety Dashon Goldson and defensive end Ray McDonald (newspaper story here). The apparent lack of interest in Smith isn’t surprising – Harbaugh has wooed Alex Smith and declined to get into specifics when asked about Troy Smith.
Some likely reasons: Troy Smith completed 45 percent of his passes in his final four starts and finished the season with a completion percentage of 50.3. Of the 43 NFL quarterbacks who threw at least 100 passes, Smith ranked 42nd in completion percentage (Arizona rookie John Skelton was 43rd).
By his own admission, Smith struggled with decision-making. Three days before his ill-fated final start against St. Louis on Dec. 26 (7 of 19, fourth-quarter benching), Smith explained his late-season slump.
“Obviously as a quarterback everything, you know, with me is decision-making,” Smith said. “My decision-making could have been much better and I’ve always been my toughest critic with that. I have an understanding that sometimes the decisions that you’re going to make are not the best. You just have to be able to ride with it.”
Besides watching tape of Smith, Harbaugh, of course, had a reference in his brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Baltimore released Smith in early September.
• Takeo Spikes is a 34-year-old linebacker whose career has included a torn Achilles and a torn rotator cuff. He played the last three games of the 2010 season with a mammoth black cast on his broken right hand.
Could Spikes, the Niners’ player representative, envision playing 18 regular-season games?
“Yeah,” Spikes wrote Wednesday during a live chat on the NFLPA’s Web site, “on Playstation.”
Spikes wrote during the chat that the dispute between the players and owners wasn’t “personal. It’s a business.” But he did question how much the NFL’s management cares about the health of its work force.
“If there is a lockout, there are a lot of guys who are hurt who won’t be able to get treatment from injuries at the workout facility that we’ll be locked out of,” Spikes wrote. “To me, I think that says a lot about how much management cares about the players.”
Spikes is a live-chatting machine – he also took questions from fans on ESPN SportsNation last week and made it clear that he wants to return to San Francisco.
“My desire is to finish what I started and that’s to finish my career as a 49er,” he wrote. “But that’s not my call.”