Jim Harbaugh inherited a team with only one quarterback signed for the 2011 season — David Carr. Harbaugh had no use for Carr and has barely even mentioned him. And no one has faulted his judgment on this non-stated thumbs down.
With the lockout looming over the offseason, Harbaugh then set out diligently to recruit the only QB in the NFL he could legally talk to or talk about — Alex Smith. Well, technically, he could have recruited Troy Smith, also, but Harbaugh has mentioned this particular Smith even less than he’s mentioned Carr. Which is to say, not even one tiny word has been expended on Troy.
It can be surmised that Alex as 2011 49er QB represents Plan B of the 49ers offseason. Plan A would have been no lockout, a free agency and trading period where a QB could have been acquired, and would have been necessary to acquire, since Alex would have signed with another team.
Plan A went bye-bye around March 10. Plan B is now in effect. Harbaugh has secured a starting QB for his initial NFL season. There’s nothing very magical about this logic. You play the cards that are dealt.
It can also be surmised that the 49er blogosphere has little use for rational thinking. When it comes to Alex Smith, many 49er fans seem to prefer having the Mike Singletary/Jimmy Raye SCO offense return for another dismal year. The offense that goes through Frank Gore and does not require a quarterback at all.
Harbaugh, of course, has a different view. He wants his offense to score points all game long — not just until the team has a three point lead it can sit on, or a deficit has mounted up that cannot be cured by running up the middle. QBs in Harbaugh’s offense are given opportunities to succeed, not opportunities to get killed or blamed for another unimaginative game plan.
It’s certainly plausible that Harbaugh, deep down, does not feel Smith will be a successful QB for him. Anyone following Smith’s career to date would have to nurture some misgivings, however big or small, about his ability to be a bona fide NFL starter. What is undeniable though is that Harbaugh feels Smith will give him his best shot at fielding a competitive team in 2011.
It’s also undeniable that many fans have reacted to the return of Smith by summarily writing off the 2011 season as a foregone conclusion of failure and disappointment, or in severe cases of anti-Smithism, absolute refusal to even root for the team as long as Smith is on it. Harrumph! Maybe Harbaugh feels this inevitability of failure, too. I doubt it, but it’s possible. Still, there is a season to be played and play it the 49ers will. Maybe.
It’s also possible that Harbaugh has a wicked Machiavellian streak that realizes Smith is the perfect patsy to absorb any fan criticism of Harbaugh’s first year on the job. This is a truth, whether Harbaugh nurses it or not. Still, this fan prefers to think Harbaugh’s fierce competitive nature is real and he intends to do everything he can to be successful this year, no matter the daunting nature of his task or the skepticism of the fans.
Here’s hoping he succeeds. With, alongside, because of, or in spite of Alex Smith.