New head coach Jim Harbaugh took a leap of faith this past offseason when he made the choice to give Smith a copy of the 49ers playbook during the brief period of time they spent together. This was during a short break in the lockout before the legal teams sewed things shut once again.
Smith used the playbook to his utmost advantage. He organized team practices at San Jose State University that teammates dubbed "Camp Alex." While these practices were far from ideal, the evidence suggests they were highly productive.
Keep in mind, Smith wasn't even under contract with the 49ers at the time, and some folks were wondering if it was a wise decision by Harbaugh to have given him access to team secrets under those circumstances. I guess he knew what he was doing.
As the lockout ended, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Smith would sign a short-term contract with the team.
When he did, most people shrugged their shoulders and decided the 49ers did the only thing that was logical under the lockout-shortened season by keeping a guy they were familiar with. When I say "most people," I'm also including just about every single "expert" on all the major TV networks.
As the season began to unfold for the first few games, San Francisco fans began to see a different guy out there on the field than they had grown accustomed to seeing. Instead of the unsure, timid, happy-feet quarterback they saw in years past, Smith showed confidence and poise when times got tough.
Smith has only gotten more sure and more steely-eyed as the season wears on. His play has been stellar, and the team has rallied around its still-young leader.
In the last contest against the Giants, the game plan called for an aggressive air assault. The Giants stacked the box to stop the run and therefore challenged the 49ers and Smith to beat them through the air. Smith was up to the challenge and led his team on to victory in a well-played game.
If you want to talk stats, Smith has the stats. This season, after nine games, he is 151-of-236 (64 percent) for 1,709 yards with 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions. That all adds up to a quarterback rating of 95.8, good for seventh in the NFL.
He won't blow anyone away like Drew Brees, as he moves to smash Dan Marino's passing record, but Smith is playing the quarterback position better than most of the quarterbacks in the NFL.
All this to say, Alex Smith deserves a three- to four-year extension before the end of the year. The 49ers have been consistent about locking up their mainstays in the past. They need to get this deal done and provide some more stability for the team and the fans.