Earlier this week, Jim Harbaugh called Alex Smith an "elite" quarterback. Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was not nearly as complimentary.
"He's a guy that they're trying to keep out of position of having to win a football game," Tuck told the New York area media Thursday. "With a back like Frank Gore and that O-line keeping them in third-and-short situations, even when it's third-and-6 or -7, they're still very confident they can pick it up running. I think what they're asking from Alex is not to lose the game."
After practice Friday, Harbaugh said he hadn't read the quote but would "check it out." Others inside the 49ers locker room sloughed it off as unimportant. "Tuck's not on our football team so he has no position to say anything about that," left tackle Joe Staley said. "We don't care about what other people say about our football team."
The word "elite" as it relates to quarterbacks has been hotly debated in the New York area for the last three months. During an August radio interview, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was asked if he was in the same class as New England's Tom Brady. Manning's reply: "I consider myself in that class," an assertion he backed up Sunday when his last-minute touchdown pass beat Brady and the Patriots.
"Right now, in the season where we're at, I think he ranks at the top," linebacker NaVorro Bowman said of Manning. "He's been playing well. Giving the right guys the ball and making the right choices with the ball and just getting the team these "Ws" for the last couple of weeks."
Through eight games, Manning has 2,377 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions, and he has led the Giants to come-from-behind wins in the each of the last three games. Smith, meanwhile, has attempted fewer passes than Manning - 206 to 280 - and he has 1,467 yards. But he has the highest completion percentage of his career and has thrown 10 touchdowns against two interceptions.
"I think people that know football and understand the game appreciate Alex Smith as a very talented quarterback," Harbaugh said. "He's every bit the elite quarterback as there is playing in the game right now. I appreciate all the talent that he has and what he brings to our team."
-- Matt Barrows