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49ers offense dictated by Jim Harbaugh, not Alex Smith

Alex Smith

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith passes during NFL football practice at the team’s training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Tuesday, June 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)


After Alex Smith used Cam Newton as an example of the kind of quarterback he didn’t want to be last month, it’s interesting that Newton came in one spot ahead of Smith in ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski’s quarterback rankings.

But in discussing Smith, Jaworski may have missed the larger point on why he played the way he played.

Jaworski hailed Smith for having the lowest interception percentage in the league last year, saying “Smith was managed brilliantly by first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh perfectly understood his quarterback’s strengths and limitations.”

But Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes that the 49ers offense was nearly identical to what Harbaugh ran at Stanford with a player of a better perceived pedigree, Andrew Luck. Only the Broncos threw fewer times than the 49ers last year, and only the Broncos and Texans ran the ball more.

That’s Harbaugh’s way of telling Smith “It’s not you, it’s me.”

The speculation is that after investing in wide receivers such as Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers might open the ball up more.

But if they do that, it will go against Harbaugh’s tendencies that are rooted deeper than any particular quarterback.

It makes you wonder what the offense would have been like if they’d have signed that guy he wasn’t interested in at all.