Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 7/27/12

When Jim Harbaugh became the coach of the 49ers last season, he made the unpopular decision of sticking with Alex Smith at quarterback. Overall, you would have to say it was a success. Prior to Harbaugh taking over, San Francisco had not finished with a winning record since 2002. Despite the fact that he called him an elite quarterback during the middle of the season, Harbuagh called on Smith to do try to do less and simply protect the football. It worked, and the combination of a phenomenal defense and an efficient offense resulted in an NFC Championship appearance.

This offseason, the Niners went out and signed Randy Moss and Mario Manningham in addition to drafting A.J. Jenkins to bolster their passing game. Jerry Rice feels as though now would be a good time to let Smith loose.

“I seriously think they got to take the diaper off this guy and let him play,” Rice said on “Audibles” Thursday night according to USA TODAY. “Let him be a grown man.”

As the unnecessary shot he took at Cam Newton proved, Smith doesn’t care about statistics. He only cares about winning football games, which is what any successful NFL quarterback should say. However, the Niners could be an offensive explosion away from winning a championship. We already know they have the defense to win it all, but if Smith could become a better passer it would make San Francisco extremely hard to stop. Perhaps the Niners legend is simply doing his part to give Smith something to prove.

Photo credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

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