Who’s the Niners MVP?

The great Matt Barrows made his case on KNBR a few days ago for DT Justin Smith as the Niners’ 2011 MVP.

That’s a terrific selection, and it’s hard to argue with it – Justin Smith has been the best player on the league’s best defense this season.

He’s certainly been the Niners most excellent player. But if I were picking their most valuable player, I’d go with Alex Smith.

The Niners couldn’t have won 10 of their first 12 regular season games without at least B+ quarterback play, and Alex Smith gave it to them. Rookies Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien could not have given the team that caliber of play right now.

Could the Niners have won all these games without Justin Smith? Perhaps, because his backups are good players. Same with Patrick Willis and Frank Gore. Alex Smith’s backups are not ready to guide the Niners to wins, so that’s why No. 11 is my Niners MVP so far in 2011.

Some commenters on this blog made the argument for head coach Jim Harbaugh as the team’s MVP. If you’re going the non-player route, you’ve also got to consider general manager Trent Baalke, because he put this roster together for the most part. He gets credit for drafting Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Chris Culliver, Kendal Hunter, Kyle Williams, etc. He gets credit for signing Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner and for resigning Ray McDonald, too.

But the true MVP in the front office has to be team president Jed York. A lot of fans and critics doubted his ability to get Harbaugh in the first place. When the Miami Dolphins moved into the sweepstakes for the former Stanford head coach last year, it seemed like the Niners were doomed, because how was Jed York, the young, inexperienced president going to convince Harbaugh to work for him?

Some people said he needed to hire a vice president first, an old football man who was wiser than Jed and could hire everyone else. Someone like Bill Parcells.

But Jed didn’t do that. He hired Trent Baalke, which was the right thing to do, and then somehow he hired Jim Harbaugh, which was the transaction of the year in the Bay Area.

So, props to Jed York and Alex Smith.

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