Gruden, Jaworski break down the 2011 Alex Smith


Gruden, Jaworski break down the 2011 Alex Smith

Alex Smith was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft. We all know that Aaron Rodgers slid all the way to No. 24 in that draft. But if the 49ers had not taken Smith, which team would've chosen him?Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the fifth pick. They selected running back Cadillac Williams after Smith, running back Ronnie Brown (Miami), receiver Braylon Edwards (Cleveland) and running back Cedric Benson (Chicago).If the 49ers did not select Smith, would he have gotten past the Buccaneers at No. 5?"We never took a quarterback in the first round," Gruden said on a conference call Wednesday morning to talk about the 49ers' upcoming "Monday Night Football" against the Pittsburgh Steelers."I wanted old guys. I wanted 38-year-old guys. I don't like young, talented quarterbacks, so probably not."Gruden and fellow ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski spoke at length about Smith and the 49ers."I've always felt Alex was a talented guy," Gruden said. "That's why he's the No. 1 pick in the draft. I think he's in a system right now that he understands and suits. Certainly, Coach (Jim) Harbaugh's hands-on approach, I'm sure, has helped him. It looks like he's playing with confidence. He's playing with some generalship. He's taking care of the ball. He understands he's going to get some opportunities throughout the game with the defense they have. I really just see a guy who's running the show. He's not taking a lot of risks. He doesn't feel like he has to do it all on his own.RELATED: Alex Smith 2011 game logs
"And (Michael) Crabtree has emerged. I'm really impressed with (Kyle) Williams, this No. 10. He's making plays. And Ted Ginn has really found his niche in this offense. They have a lot of speed. Vernon Davis can make plays. And they can hand the ball off to (Frank), and if have to punt, so what. They'll get another opportunity. I really see a mature quarterback. I'm happy for Alex Smith. After all he's been through, it's good to see him winning and having some fun for a change."They haven't lost a game with their offense. At time they've been able to win games with ball control, high percentage passing and Alex Smith has made some timely plays."Jaworski noted several years ago that Smith has a mechanical flaw that leads to some problems with accuracy. Smith has a tendency to throw with a rigid front leg. Typically, Jaworski said quarterback must have bend in that plant leg to throw with consistency.Even as Smith is having the best season of his career, he has not corrected that issue. And Jaworkski said he will no longer harp on the flaw."He really hasn't made a whole lot of improvement in his mechanics," Jaworski said. "I remember a few years ago when I broke down his locked left leg, and I still think that knee lock causes him problems with his accuracy. But it's something he's comfortable with, and it's unique to his passes. I've kind of let it go at that. It's not something I like to see. I think it's a detriment to quarterbacks when they don't have that flexed knee and a cushion. But Alex has played well. And more important, he understands what his role right now."He is the quarterback. He understands system right now. He's not asked to drop back 40 times and win the game for the 49ers. They're winning it with outstanding defense, they're coming off the ball and road-grading people. Frank Gore is having a rock-solid year. And the other component is helping out as well. Kendall Hunter is making a contribution. They're a two-tight end oriented offense. They want to play smash-mouth football and they'll take their shots. And think this is where Alex has been very good. They run the football. They'll throw the play-action game and he'll take his shots. It's a good fit for where he is in his career right now, this style of offense. So I applaud the way he's playing right now. He's very careful with the football and not making a whole lot of mistakes."If Jaworski has a criticism of Smith it's that he has held the ball too long on occasion and taken unnecessary sacks."I'd like to see the ball come out a little quicker," Jaworski said. "There are times he's taking sacks because he's not releasing the football, but other than that I applaud the way he's playing." The Baltimore Ravens, coached by John Harbaugh, are in tied atop the AFC North. John Harbaugh said he will help Jim Harbaugh get prepared to face the Steelers as much as he can. But Gruden does not envision it serving as much of an advantage to the 49ers."I don't know how beneficial it is because the Ravens on offense have nothing to do with the 49ers on offense," Gruden said. "And there's no guarantee the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to play the 49ers like they played the Ravens. So you got to be careful when you work on the telephone. I've always been reluctant to do that. I really think this game here is a totally different set of circumstances than what Ravens saw from the Steelers in their two ballgames. I never put a lot of stock into that."Gruden said the 49ers' defense can pretty much take care of its own job without much help."The San Francisco 49ers always been a very good defensive team," Gruden said. "They've been talented. They've been stingy against the run. They're improved in secondary. I think the addition of (Donte) Whitner has really helped them on back end. And then the addition of Aldon Smith has changed them. They didn't get that kind of pass rush from some of the previous pass-rush specialists. I think those two additions really stand out to me."

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”


Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”