Our friends at Sports Pickle made a joke about 49ers QB Alex Smith in real-time Sunday that couldn’t be overlooked: “I bet other No. 1 overall pick QB busts think Alex Smith has become a total sellout.”
True, Smith was impressive in throwing for three touchdowns in San Francisco’s 48-3 win, but five games is too soon to lift the “bust” label just yet. Still, let’s acknowledge that the former No. 1 overall pick is by far having his best season while leading the Niners to a 4-1 start and atop the NFC West standings.
It’s not that Smith is particularly slinging the ball all over the field (averaging 193 passing yards), but he’s playing smart and being accurate. He’s thrown for seven touchdowns to just one interception while completing 65.9 percent of his attempts. All this has led to a 104.1 rating that ranks behind just Tom Brady (122.9) and Aaron Rodgers (109.5) — if you can believe that.
So what has changed? It’s simple. The difference in Smith, as Mike Mayock pointed out Tuesday on “NFL Total Access”, has been first-year coach Jim Harbaugh.
“What Jim has done is he’s brought a toughness to all three phases of this game,” Mayock said. “They’re a run-first team, they go with multiple tight ends, and I really think they’ve taken the pressure off the quarterback. I’ve never seen Alex Smith more decisive — or more accurate.”
Before this season, it had been a difficult six years in San Francisco for Smith, who has frustrated 49ers fans for failing to meet expectations. But many experts believed in the preseason that Harbaugh could get the most out of Smith, and it’s playing out that way — at least for now.