Every team is a mosaic. What the San Francisco 49ers has become in the last 12 months since Jim Harbaugh and a new staff took control is a credit to their ability to analyze the parts, re-assemble them into their vision and then get the team to believe in it.
It’s quite a complicated process, and it was made much more difficult by the fact that the labor lockout prevented Harbaugh and staff from coming into contact with the team until July. That’s why Harbaugh’s efforts, to go along with the recent drafts run by general manager Trent Baalke, have been so remarkable.
Now they’re 12-3. The defense ranks first in the NFL in many categories. Their special teams are setting standards for field position switches and kick coverages. Who knew kicker David Akers would be the team’s MVP, but with 12 wins no one is complaining because the team ranks 26th in yards gained but 15th in points scored.
In other words, no team has done more with the least amount of offensive production than the 49ers. Credit the staff, again, and credit the players.
Through all that, the toughest call Jim Harbaugh had to make was what to do at quarterback. He decided early on that Alex Smith was the team’s best chance. And Smith, given the confidence and support he apparently had never received before, responded with his best season.
The team ranks 29th in passing yards but it also has to be said that it throws the ball less than all but one team. More to the point, Smith has only five interceptions this year, which again stems from the amount of throws as well as his good decisions.
With that in mind, here are five reasons why the 49ers should consider a long-term deal with Alex Smith as well as why they shouldn’t.