Originally Posted by Saints-Tigers
It's been a problem since before Harbaugh. I think Harbaugh finds Alex a good fit, because his philosophy masks Smith's biggest deficiency.
Smith biggest problem for me is over-thinking things - that's where the hesitancy and the check downs come from. He's an extremely intelligent guy, but he's almost too clinical, too methodical. One of the knocks against him coming out was that he'd have to fully understand the offence in order to thrive in it and, as has been covered ad nauseum, this is only the second time he'll be returning to the system that he played under the previous year.
Personally I'm treating Smith as a QB with much less experience than his career length suggests. His only full season prior to last year was 2006, which was also the only previous season in which he had a coaching staff capable of developing him. Many good QBs have taken time to develop. It's only recently for example that Eli Manning has been talked about as an elite QB and Bree's early struggles in San Diego are well documented - I'm not saying Smith will ever necessarily reach elite levels, but just pointing out that progression after early struggles does happen. He does
have the physical tools to be a good starter, but he needs to show progression this year. If he can build on last year's success then I'll be very happy.
As for why Harbaugh thinks Alex is a good fit? Harbs likes character and people who aren't afraid to put in the grind. I think he sees a lot of himself in Smith, a gritty player who's always working, even if his skills aren't elite. Smith's often wrongly portrayed as not being brave, probably thanks to Nolan questioning his toughness when he couldn't play through a separated shoulder. Quite to the contrary, Smith's hard as nails.
I think Harbs was genuinely surprised by Smith last year. The FO knew that Kaepernick couldn't start right away and the shortened off-season kept Smith in the fold when most of us thought he'd be glad to leave. He accepted a one year 'prove it' deal and rose to the challenge of leading the offence with aplomb. He won the respect of the locker room and took the team deep into the playoffs. I don't think Harbaugh expected that, and I think he respects him a lot because of it.
One final point: I think some people are saying Harbaugh's wrong to back himself as someone that can finally develop Smith into a good QB whilst also saying Smith's progression is only due to Harbaugh's coaching. You can't have it both ways folks.