49ers offense dictated by Jim Harbaugh, not Alex Smith


After Alex Smith used Cam Newton as an example of the kind of quarterback he didn’t want to be last month, it’s interesting that Newton came in one spot ahead of Smith in ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski’s quarterback rankings.

But in discussing Smith, Jaworski may have missed the larger point on why he played the way he played.

Jaworski hailed Smith for having the lowest interception percentage in the league last year, saying “Smith was managed brilliantly by first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh perfectly understood his quarterback’s strengths and limitations.”

But Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes that the 49ers offense was nearly identical to what Harbaugh ran at Stanford with a player of a better perceived pedigree, Andrew Luck. Only the Broncos threw fewer times than the 49ers last year, and only the Broncos and Texans ran the ball more.

That’s Harbaugh’s way of telling Smith “It’s not you, it’s me.”

The speculation is that after investing in wide receivers such as Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers might open the ball up more.

But if they do that, it will go against Harbaugh’s tendencies that are rooted deeper than any particular quarterback.

It makes you wonder what the offense would have been like if they’d have signed that guy he wasn’t interested in at all.

40 responses to “49ers offense dictated by Jim Harbaugh, not Alex Smith

  1. I dont get it. Whatever the 49ers did last year, it worked. It isn’t like Smith hindered the offense.

  2. The 49ers have a real solid chance to repeat what they did last year.

    Bolstering up the WR core was a great idea, giving Alex Smith a bunch of options (Manningham, Crabtree, Davis, … etc etc). They almost have too much talent at RB surely someone will be riding pine. (Gore, Hunter, Jacobs, and rookie LaMichael James.)

    Their Pass rush is easily top 5 if not right behind the G-Men, Great LB”s (Bowman and Willis), solid DB’s.

    I really can’t seem them not making it back to the NFC Game.

  3. The fact that the reason Smith played better last year was because Harbaugh carefully assessed his strengths and weaknesses, and limited his exposure was obvious.

    What’s interesting is the touting of all these receivers. They don’t have a single receiver who is better than “above-average.” Vernon Davis qualifies, I guess, but then again, you probably don’t need any elite receivers when your QB is Alex Smith.

  4. This is why Jim Harabaugh is a head coach in the NFL and has had much success in the college and pro game. He is a former QB himself and you hear it from QB’s all the time- “A running game is a QB’s best friend.” Not to mention that Harabaugh has done a great job in not only giving great confidence to his QB’s but also playing to their strengths. Andrew Luck, Alex Smith, and Josh Johnson all have improved under Harabaugh and his coaching style. He also does a great job of incorporating everyone’s skills on the offensive side of the ball. Now that the 49ers reloaded on offense, and are multi dimensional, look for ,not only a confident Alex Smith to open up his arsenal, but also have Harabaugh do some creative things with the new tools he has. I do believe 110% that Alex Smith will have a Pro Bowl type year.

  5. I’ve watched every down of every Niner game the last 40 years. Getting Harbaugh was like Christmas all over again. I’m delighted with the direction of this franchise.

    I will tell you to a man, the only chance we have of getting back to the NFC Championship is if the defense stays healthy. Last year’s offense was an afterthought. The run they made WAS ALL DEFENSE and special teams.

    Smith stepped up in 3 games last year (NY Giants in Nov, the Lions game and the Saints bounty game). Everything else was average to below average. He dissapears all the time. His 3 and outs are common. The criticism he endures is legit.

    This year’s schedule is brutal. I think 10 wins is just about where we’ll end up after 17 weeks. How far we go in the playoffs depends solely on the health of uur D in January.

    All I really care about this year is SMASHING the Jets and watching Rex get punked in his house. That will be good enough for me

  6. smith has no business being ranked in thetop 20 let alone just one spot behind cam newton…..it totally discredits jaws and his abilities as a qb analyst(or whatever the hell he is)…. laughable!

  7. Niners will be lucky to win their division this year, considering the emergence of SEA. All teams have to do now is stack the box on Gore, and put an athletic safety on Davis. Crabtree provides zero threat past 10-15 yards, Jenkins was a reach in the 1st, but will be an immediate upgrade to what has been a pretty awful receiving corps. I’d bet money Jenkins ends up spending most of his time in the slot. Dude can’t beat press. Just watch the tape. Again though, still an upgrade. Moss will be all but ineffective. Can’t believe anyone is actually excited about the Moss signing.

    Smith is horribly inaccurate and won’t be able to live on dump-offs this season like he did last. He’s going to have to push the ball down field, and we saw several examples of how terrible he is at that, last season. Kaepernick just might start a game or two by the end of the season.

    The defense is still probably the best in football though. But if they can’t move the ball on offense, and if teams decide to finally make Alex Smith prove it, by blitzing him and pressing at the corners consistently, they’ll be fortunate to win 9.

    SEA’s unstable QB situation still offers more upside/potential than Alex Smith does for SF. Not to mention, SEA’s defense isn’t far behind the Niners’ defense. Those two teams will be duking it out for the division, and it will be a lot closer than it was last year.

  8. Sometimes simply having a QB that can ‘manage’ a game and not turn the ball over is all you need to win a ring – just ask the Ratbirds, who won with Trent Dilfer. The 49ers have a similarly good defense so the pieces just may be in place for them (although I don’t see them making it to the championship this year).

  9. when trent dilfer from a decade ago is the only reference you have as to why your qb isn’t holding a great team back its not a very good sign…..

  10. Alex Smith has all the intangibles you look for in a QB. He can make all the throws, intelligent, good mobility, says all the right things, and does all the right things. He now has some stability for the first time in his career with an offensive minded coach, whom also use to play QB and is something of a QB guru, at his side. Also, I am sick of all this Seattle talk of winning the division. Carroll isn’t even Harabaugh’s level. Yes, Marshawn Lynch is a good running back but 9 times out of ten he will be a non factor against the 49ers defense. Yes, he did run for 100 yds and a td against SF last year but it was in WEEK 15!!!! After the amount of time, energy, and good RB’s the 49ers played against last year I was actually very happy that they went 15 games without giving up a rushing TD and even a longer streak of most game without 100 yds rushing by a player. Oh, and if you think Matt Flynn is the savior in Seattle then you’re wrong, unless the Seahawks got Jordy Nelson too. Flynn is an inexperienced QB that will face the NFL’s best defense with his top WR being a guy with bad shoulders. I think that Seattle just got themselves the next Kevin Kolb (but for a lot less).

  11. The problem last year was our offense had no deep threat. Moss changes that, he sees T.O’s situation & knows if he messes up the HOF voters use it against him. Overall I thank our defense is good enough to get us back to the NFC title game. Super Bowl depends on how well our offense is playing after the new year

  12. Where are people getting this resurgent Seattle from?You mean the Seahawks qb,d by Tavaris and unproven flynn?Or the Seahawks who dont have one plauer thag would be a starter on the Niners?like the above poster said Im more likely to believe Arizona gets better this year than Seattle….

  13. Wow. It must be June if we are still talking about this! First- a. Smith never slighted Cam Newton this journalist must have something against smith. If smith slighted anyone it would be the panthers and their defense.. If your gonna hate the guy at least do it knowing the facts.

  14. The media loves to “slight” Alex any chance they get and everyone forgets he was on the up and up well before Harbaugh arrived in San Francisco:

    49ers Alex Smith (last 24 games): 395 of 665, 4,780 yards, 30 TD, 6 INT, 92.8 rating.
    Where does that rank league wide? QB rating (last 665 attempts): 1. Rodgers, 114.88; 2. Brees, 106.21; 3. Brady, 102.85; 4. Romo, 101.45; 5. Stafford, 96.32; 6. E. Manning, 94.23; 7. Alex Smith, 92.81; 8. P. Manning 92.74; 9. Schaub, 91.93; 10. Ryan 90.79; 11. Rivers 88.98; 12. Roethlisberger 88.25; 13. Vick 86.35; 14. Cutler 83.69; 15. Flacco 83.12.

  15. The fact that A. Smith #11 is at this point working on his mechanics and throwing more than learning another playbook is HUGE. He will have more yards passing and more TD’s as well. That will also mean he will have more than 5 INTs cuz he’ll be airing it out more but it wont matter much cuz of the increased yards and TDs.

    The reigning NFC West Champ 49ers will be NFC West Champs again, no doubt. We’ll have a home game playoff and then go to Green Bay. Hopefully we can win home field advantage throughout tho!

  16. norcal you really haven’t a clue. kolb and skelton are scaring you guys more than the seahawks top secondary and much improved pass rush and superior rb??? good I hope the niners overlook the seahawks like you homers .. funny how you guys come out of the woodwork after a lucky season with no injuries…perhaps you should crawl back into the hole you all have been hiding in for the past decade.

  17. do you ever notice how the media doesn’t slight brady or rodgers any chance they get….? that’s because they don’t suck….alex does so the media slights him.

  18. And this is why PM was never EVER going to go to SF. It has to be about HIM, not his HC.

  19. Why have the bloggers and writers from this site all of a sudden start to hate the Niners. This site has more sarcastic comments about the Niners then any other site. What gives?

  20. I have also come to notice that many fans of other teams who comment on the Niners have no clue what they are talking about. I just read a post that stated our receivers suck this year. The year hasn’t even started. We have Crabs, Moss, Manningham, Jenkins, Williams, and Ginn. We have a talented crew on paper. They just need to perform on the field. I am a huge Niners fan and I feel that our team never truly sucked. I think they were coached poorly. We were in almost all of our games the past 6 or 7 years. I know, because I watched them all. Our failures came in the 4th quarter most of the time. We were young and inexperienced, just like our coaches. I think we will win the division and make a run for the ring. With that said, our division will be tough this year. No more the West is the Worst. I feel that the teams in our division will all have good Defenses. I also feel that we will have the best offense, so we will win the division. 49ers: 11-5 or 10-6, Arizona 9-7 or 8-8, Seattle: 9-7 or 8-8, Rams: 7-9.

  21. @beardedhawk…. You see…. Man I was going to agree with you about Seattle being the other team in the NFC West and I was going to tell you why. I was gonna list your RB Lynch (whom I respect), I was going to list a Defensive group that showed improvement near the end of last season and really gelled as a unit and I was going to say something positive about your DBs specifically because I think they’re talented….then you go and call all 9ers fans fairweather. That is some cheap, juvenile garbage. Hate Alex if you want (he’ll prove himself without aide from me), but just because you have issue with something that one or two fans of a team say don’t lump us all together. Although they have raised valid points….except for backing AZ…lol

  22. I am not saying that all niner fans are fair weather….because I know that they are not and I apologize to any legitimate fans out there. that being said I simply don’t recall this many fans banging the drum in thr recent past….a good fan(which you sound like) can acknowledge a teams strengths and weaknesses..many niner fans don’t seem to have this ability which rubs many the wrong way.

  23. Wow…

    The phrase “love is blind” comes to mind when reading Niners’ fan remarks.

    If you think ARI is more scary than Seattle, compare their secondaries, defense against the run, defense overall, and their running games. Oh, and check their respective rosters for average age.

    Nobody’s saying Matt Flynn is a savior. At all. Clearly, Niners fans know as well as anyone that you can have a QB that sucks, and still win a division, if you have an elite running game and top 10 defense.

  24. realistically the niners will go 10-6 or 9-7 this season…
    tuff games vs gb det nyg…a good chance you’ll split with seattle and then n.o and ne at the end of the season could put you guys in some hot water if you drop any games that you shouldn’t and you can easily be 9-7 or 8-8

  25. instead of talking like you are unbeatable what you should do is pray that you win the division and that you are healthy at the end of the season and catch some of the proverbial lightning in a bottle. this being said the hawks wont lay down and die this season

  26. “Alex Smith will never take them to the next level”

    WHat exactly is the next level? Is every single QB currently in the NFL that hasn’t won a Super Bowl completely incapable of taking a team to the next level?

  27. I think he’s saying that if good qbs have a hard time making the “next step” a qb that has taken 7 years to become just an ok qb probably will have a difficult time doing so

  28. Gotta love this, win 13 games and almost make the super bowl and people have you 10 wins at best next season? Are you serious?

    They have built one of the deepest rosters in the league(esp on Defense) and there will be some good players cut to get the roster down to 53.

    Repeating the same record as last season will be tough I admit but of the teams that surprised people the season before the 49ers are one of the few teams in that situation who don’t get the benefit of the doubt the next season. Most of what I see is “they will crash back down to earth” “Sea/Ari/StL have all better” and ya know what if the 49ers do repeat again I bet most will still say “Well of course any team can do well in the NFC West”.

    49ers won games early and it was “Still gotta make the playoffs” then they clinched it was “One and done”. If they had won the Super Bowl it would have been “they won’t repeat”. Face it this isn’t the same inept franchise as a few years ago. That defense was great with no offseason last year and now they have OTAs this year. Alex Smith is getting to work on mechanics for the first time in years but no it’s unfathomable that he will win as much last season. The guy with the 7th best passer rating in the last 24 games played in the entire NFL is being disregarded.

    Seattle is the most viable threat and they have a few more questions than the 49ers. They have a big question mark at QB. At least the 49ers know who is starting at QB and I’d take him over Jackson and a post-Packers Flynn. Also will Lynch run as hard now that he got paid? He might but ya never know. They have good CBs but the 49ers improved the WR corps so we will see who wins that battle.

    And when did everyone decide that the games against NO, NE, GB, and NY would be considered automatic losses? Granted those are 4 great teams and most of those are on the road which is going to be brutal. But why is it that past performances are only credited when it comes to saying why the 49ers can’t beat a team this season? Why is it so outside the realm of thought that one of the top defenses in the league can’t slow down those offenses?

    49ers make the playoffs again and they will be the most dangerous team in the playoffs. Not going to predict Super Bowl when really it wouldn’t be as insane as when people would say it in years past but they will make playoff noise even if as a wild card. I am pretty confident in that statement too.

  29. WHEN WILL THE HATE STOP!!! Everyone is talking trash about the 49ers because none of you can understand what we did last yr… Im a hardcore niners fan but im also a realist and I take it a week at a time… Alex Smith, whether it was Harbuaghs doing or coaching or play calling etc…it was Alex playing on the field. What I like about Alex and Coach is that they will never tell you writers and bloggers whats going on. It all stays in house and that kills you writers, so you try to find other things to make yourselves feel good about yourselves. Alex Smith might be a game manager and I quote ” IM MANAGING WINS”-alex smith

  30. managing wins that were only wins because of defenseive play after 7 years of mediocrity doesn’t seem to impress the entirety of the football world for a reason. The chances of the defensive unit making it through 2 straight seasons without a major injury is highly unlikely…..and if they don’t then alex will be exposed for what he truly is

  31. Niners are scary. They gave Smith some new toys at WR and got some depth at RB, addressing all the problems they had last year. Moss and Manningham will start and give the Niners something they didn’t have last year, a viable deep threat who can actually catch the ball. Even adjusting for a tough schedule i see 12-4, maybe 11-5.

  32. manningham wasn’t even that good with eli throwing to him so I wouldn’t expect for mario and smith to make any noise……moss is just about 40 which means that even if he doesn’t have a meltdown he could easily get injured..jenkins may not play much at all this season being how unimpressive he’s been thus far…and crabtree is just above average with below avg speed. the brandon jacobs signing was stupid(because he’s terrible).
    Your D is defense is top 5 easy but I doubt you guys will win more than 10 at most…….at least in my humble opinion

  33. our entire secondary and running back would start for the niners as well as sidney rice and doug baldwin. You are a true homer norcal

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