Sometimes a message comes through in body language. Sometimes it’s delivered in plain, straightforward English.
In the matter of whether Alex Smith will return to quarterback the 49ers next season, the information has now been delivered clearly via both means.
This week, Smith and Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh have been best buddies on the Monterey Peninsula, chatting with the media, playing golf in a charity shootout at Pebble Beach and getting ready for the start of Thursday’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where Smith will caddie for Harbaugh.
This, after Smith accepted Harbaugh’s NFL Coach of the Year Award in Indianapolis last Saturday at the league’s inaugural Honors awards celebration.
Obviously, Smith and Harbaugh have a connection and rapport. Since even before Smith signed a one-year deal last summer to return to the 49ers, Harbaugh has been his biggest booster, and Smith blossomed under his coach’s guidance to post the best season of his career in taking the Niners to the NFC Championship Game.
Now, as 49ers fans await the team’s decision on whether it will re-sign Smith or look for a new quarterback on the free-agent market – where it appears Peyton Manning will soon be available – Harbaugh says the team wants Smith back.
Speaking on “Chronicle Live” Wednesday, Harbaugh said: “We’re all in lockstep as an organization that Alex Smith is our guy. … It’s well-documented. You saw the way he played this year. Tremendous leader on our football team.”
Back in December, when Harbaugh was asked if he saw Smith as the team’s long-term quarterback, he told the media, “I do.”
Smith, who finished third in voting for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year (behind Lions QB Matthew Stafford and Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson), set career bests for quarterback rating (90.7), completion percentage (61.3), yards (3,144) and fewest interceptions (5) in 2011, then led the Niners to a comeback victory over the Saints in the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs in January.
Now it’s obvious the team will stay in-house and bring Smith – an unrestricted free agent -- back, with just the details to be worked out.
Smith, for his part, has said he wants to continue to improve, and will work on making himself better over the offseason.
Speaking on “Chronicle Live” Tuesday, Smith ticked off areas where he needs improvements, including how to avoid sacks (he had 44 this past season), get rid of the football more quickly on some plays and get the ball to playmaking receivers.