Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 12/20/11

Jim Harbaugh has proven everywhere he’s been that he’s a great coach. He won at USD, Stanford, and now he’s winning in his first year in San Francisco. He’s not just winning, either; he has the 49ers tied for the second-best record in the league. He’s maximized the defensive talent the team already had, but what’s been most impressive is the success he’s had with Alex Smith.

Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick in the draft, looked like a complete bust his first five seasons. I’ve ripped him up and down every chance I’ve had. But Smith is playing well this year and making me look bad. He has the best record, completion percentage, and touchdown/interception ratio of his career. He has fewer turnovers through 14 games than he had in any previous season, and that includes ones where he played 7 and 11 games.

Harbaugh backed Smith before the season began, called him an “elite quarterback” last month, and now he’s saying he believes Smith is the team’s long-term answer at quarterback. I don’t know if Harbaugh truly means that, or if he’s just trying to continue supporting his QB. People have said part of the reason Smith is playing so well is because Jim has given him a psychological boost with the support.

Harbaugh knows a heck of a lot more about football than I do, and he’s a fantastic coach. If he thinks Alex Smith is the franchise’s long-term answer at quarterback, then he must really believe in him. But I still disagree. Smith has played well this year, but he needs a stellar defense to consistently win. I also can’t envision him repeating this performance next season.

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