49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

February 4, 2011
Why Harbaugh is so bullish on Alex Smith

Interesting piece this week by ESPN's Mike Sando, who caught up with Rams quarterback Sam Bradford at the Super Bowl. Bradford got Alex Smith-ed this offseason. That is, after one season under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Shurmur was hired as the Browns head coach. Now Bradford must learn incoming offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' system.

That's hard enough in a normal offseason. This one, of course, promises to be anything but normal in that McDaniels will not be able to hold a practice with Bradford and the Rams' offensive players until after a new collective bargaining agreement is completed. And that, as we all know by know, could take a long time.

But Bradford tells Sando that he is prepared to make the most of a bad situation. He said he plans to have a two-day study session with McDaniels starting on Tuesday. He said he intended to take McDaniels' playbook with him into the offseason - even if there's a lockout - and to get together with his Rams' teammates.

"I would imagine as long as I get the playbook before the lockout happens, then I see no reason why I would have to turn it in," Bradford said. "That is going to be big if there is a lockout and I can't continue to go to St. Louis and meet with [McDaniels]. It will be something I have to do on my own, which is going to be tough. This next month is big for me."

Which brings us to the 49ers, who are in an even worse situation than Bradford and the Rams. Like St. Louis' offensive players, the 49ers players have to learn an entirely new offense before the 2011 season begins. But unlike Bradford and the Rams, they currently don' have a starting quarterback who could mimic Bradford's plan of attack of boning up over the offseason. The only 49ers quarterback in a position to do so is backup David Carr.

Which helps explain why Harbaugh has been so rosy and complimentary of Alex Smith in recent weeks. The quarterback who gives the 49ers the best chance to hit the ground running after a turbulence-filled offseason is Smith. He's familiar with all the offensive players and is good friends with many of them. He lives just minutes from the team's facility. And he's played in a West Coast system before - in 2005 when Packers coach Mike McCarthy was the offensive coordinator.

Consider Harbaugh's personality: "I don't know if it was the grasshopper or the ... who's the one saving stuff up for winter? The ant. I'm like the ant," he said last month. "I have a hard time living for today or in the past. To me it's all about making the future the best it can be."

It's a wonderful metaphor because the NFL is now gearing up for the mother of all winters, one from which they may not emerge until the eve of the 2011 season or possibly later. The ant in Harbaugh wants to prepare for that very situation. He'd love to be sitting down with his starting quarterback the way McDaniels and Bradford are doing in St. Louis and charting out the best way to get through the offseason. Can he do this with Carr? Certainly, and he probably will. But getting to do so with Smith would give him more and better options.

The 49ers made two more coaching hires today: Reggie Davis at tight ends coach and Peter Hansen, a defensive assistant/quality control coach.

Davis, 34, had been the running backs coach for the last three years at Oregon State where he helped mentor Jacquizz Rodgers. Prior to joining the Beavers in 2008, Davis was the running backs coach at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas from 2005-07. He also has a history with Harbaugh having worked on his University of San Diego staff as a tight ends and special teams assistant. He also played two seasons alongside Harbaugh as a San Diego Charger (1999-2000), appearing in 26 games (three starts).

Hansen, meanwhile, is a Palo Alto native who played for his dad, Earl, at Palo Alto High. He played football and basketball at the University of Arizona and had a brief pro football stint with the Cannes Iron Mask in Cannes, France. He spent the last two years as a defensive assistant at Stanford, the last working closely with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who is now with the 49ers.

The 49ers also promoted Tom Gamble to director of player personnel. That was the title that Trent Baalke held before Scot McCloughan left the team almost a year ago. Gamble had been the de facto director of player personnel from that point as he worked with both the college and pro personnel departments. Gamble is well-respected around the league and has worked in the NFL for 23 seasons.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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