Gruden, Jaworski break down the 2011 Alex Smith

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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."

49ers visit with free-agent defensive end

49ers visit with free-agent defensive end

PHOENIX – The 49ers had a recent visit with Tampa Bay free-agent defensive end Jacquies Smith, general manager John Lynch confirmed on Sunday.

Smith, 27, sustained a torn right ACL in the Buccaneers’ season opener in September while running down the field on punt coverage against the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers gave Smith a physical during his visit to Santa Clara. The club has yet to make a contract offer, Lynch said.

"We wanted to get him checked out medically, and we’ll see," Lynch said at the NFL owners meetings.

Smith (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) recorded 6.5 sacks in 2014 and seven sacks in 2015 for the Buccaneers.

After going undrafted in 2012 out of Missouri, Smith signed with Miami. He spent time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League before landing on the New York Jets’ practice squad. Smith worked his way into the Buccaneers’ defensive-line rotation in ’14 after being claimed off waivers from the Buffalo Bills.

The Buccaneers gave Smith the low tender of $1.797 million as a restricted free agent. Any team can sign Smith to an offer sheet. Tampa Bay would have the right of first refusal but would get no compensation if the team chooses not to match the contract.

With 71 players under contract, the 49ers have $74.5 million in cap space, according to the NFL Players Association.

Former 49ers OL/DE Clay Matthews Sr dies at 88 years old

Former 49ers OL/DE Clay Matthews Sr dies at 88 years old

Former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman/defensive end Clay Matthews Sr. passed away on Thursday, March 23rd at the age of 88. 

Matthews originally entered the NFL as a 25th round (247th overall) draft choice by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1949 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons with San Francisco (1950, 1953-55), appearing in 45 games and registering one interception. After spending his rookie season of 1950 with the 49ers, he went on to spend two years (1951-52) in the United States Army where he served in the Korean War.

A native of Charleston, SC, Matthews attended Georgia Tech where he played guard, tackle and end while earning All-Southeastern Conference honors in 1948. In 1949, Matthews was the All-Southeastern Conference heavyweight wrestling and boxing champion at Georgia Tech.

Matthews was the first of three generations to play in the National Football League. His two oldest sons, Bruce and Clay Jr., each spent 19 seasons in the NFL. Originally selected by the Houston Oilers in the first round (9th overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft, Bruce was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 after 14 Pro Bowl and seven First-Team All-Pro selections. Clay Jr. was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 1st round (12th overall) in the 1978 draft and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

Three of Bruce’s sons, Jake, Kevin and Mike, and two of Clay Jr.’s sons, Clay III and Casey, either have spent time or currently play in the NFL. Clay III is currently a member of the Green Bay Packers and a six-time Pro Bowl selection at linebacker while Jake is currently an offensive lineman for the Atlanta Falcons after being selected in the first round (6th overall) by the team in 2014. 

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