San Francisco 49ers' 2011 Draft and the QB Hunt: The Big Four and the Other Guys

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San Francisco 49ers' 2011 Draft and the QB Hunt: The Big Four and the Other Guys
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Three wise men

The three wise men shown here will be charged with finding the next 49ers quarterback.

Specifically, Jed York promoted Trent Baalke to general manager in order to land Jim Harbaugh, who can theoretically find and groom the next winning passer for the red and gold.

Alex Smith, the mild-mannered former first-overall draft pick from 2005, possibly shell-shocked from a catharsis of premature play for defense-oriented coaches and a revolving door of offensive coordinators, is a free agent, and likely headed for a change of scenery.

The new head coach, however, has praised Smith as a player and as a person. Matt Maiocco reported a couple weeks ago via

"I've been studying Alex Smith and watching him, and I believe that Alex Smith can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League," Harbaugh said. "I'm excited to work with him, get to know him.

"And, ultimately, he has to make a decision because he's an unrestricted free agent right now. What is his vision for himself? Does that include the San Francisco 49ers in that vision?"

Does this mean Alex Smith could return to the red and gold in 2011?

Not really, although Harbaugh and the 49ers will have sole negotiating rights to Smith until March 3rd.

For speculative purposes, there's a chance Harbaugh believes he can take Smith to the next level, and make him a winner in the NFL.

For the reality seekers, there's a snowball's chance in LA that Smith wants to return to where his career got off to a miserable start, and where he has been all but booed out of town by 49ers fans.

Then again, Smith may believe in Harbaugh's tutelage, and the potential consistency of Jim's five-year deal with the 49ers is reason to consider staying in San Francisco.

That and the great weather; but don't gasp, scream, or hold your breath.

As Maiocco puts it, "Harbaugh might determine he wants Smith on his roster, all right. But the final say belongs to Smith."

The reality is that the 49ers will be taking a long, hard look at the 2011 rookie quarterback class, and they will undoubtedly draft at least one QB this April.


Read more: Maiocco: Smith, not 49ers, will decide where he plays

Tune to SportsNet Central at 6, 10:30 and midnight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area for more on this story.

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