Ralph Barbieri asked Steve Young about Alex Smith Wednesday afternoon on KNBR. Here’s what Young said.
BARBIERI: I was never convinced the Jim Harbaugh fully trusted Alex Smith until the end of the Saints game. Is that fair to say?
YOUNG: “Well, let’s get a little perspective. They’ve been together on the field for six months total. So, we talked about is before the first game: ‘Please, just start slow. Don’t let Alex get into trouble because they’ll storm the castle and you can’t have that.’ You’ve got to look at the totality of what Jim had to thread the needle, and looking back, he threaded it perfectly. Expanded at the end of the season. Won some games early with bad third-down conversions and some rough red-zone numbers. David Akers kicking every possible field goal. They won some key games that could have gone either way to give them the padding to go do the things they did in the last month.
“When you really needed Alex, when you turned to him in a shootout on the biggest stage, let it rip. And he responds.
“I interviewed him yesterday. He describes it as: ‘Before Jim Harbaugh everything seemed so much heavier and harder and more difficult. To me, what I’m doing now is almost easier. It’s simple.’
“Ralph, you asked me before the season if Alex Smith could win the Super Bowl and I paused and I said yes, because the change of somebody that can put the quarterback in a position to be successful, make Alex the centerpiece of not the play calling necessarily, but the centerpiece of, ‘If he’s successful, we’ll be successful.'”
“Smith described that as clouds parting and the sun coming out and life getting easier. Even describing the last play, he was like, ‘Look, we’d written it up and we got the look that we wanted – the Tampa 2 – and so I just drove it in there.’ He doesn’t have a sense of the enormity of the moment, he has a sense of, ‘This is what we do.’ He fulfills what the coach has put him in a position to do.”
“How many times have I said how grateful I was for the chance to be in an organization that gave me platform to go see how good I could get. There’s not many places where you can find out how good you are. And so Alex, for the first time in his life, has been given a platform. He doesn’t know how good he is because he hasn’t been given the platform. So, now he has it and you just have to sit back and revel with him.”
Q: But wasn’t that the first time you could really see that Harbaugh trusted Smith?
YOUNG: “I think he was trusted the day Jim called him in February and said: ‘Hey, we can do this. I know quarterbacks. I’ve watched you play. You can do this.’ What I’m telling you is Alex is a different guy since that call.
“I don’t think they started slow at the beginning of the year because Harbaugh didn’t trust Smith, it’s because they didn’t have the time to build up the trust.”