Maiocco: Production matters in 49ers' captains vote

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Maiocco: Production matters in 49ers' captains vote

Sept. 6, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

On the day that cuts were made to 53 players, the 49ers held a vote to select their two captains for the season.

The result of the vote was interesting. It spoke to what the players value from a teammate.

Leadership might be great, but the quality that swayed the 49ers players was production.The defensive captain is Patrick Willis, an understated tackling machine who has been named to the Pro Bowl each of his first four NFL seasons. He is on pace for a Hall-of-Fame career. Willis is the 49ers' best defensive player.

The captain on offense is running back Frank Gore. His team-record streak of four consecutive 1,000-plus-yard rushing seasons ended last year when he still gained 853 yards despite missing the final five games with a fractured hip. Gore is the 49ers' best offensive player.

When coach Jim Harbaugh announced Saturday which players were voted as 49ers captains, it was only natural to begin to think about which players were not chosen.

Of course, there was one name that immediately came to mind . . . Alex Smith.

Smith was the leader for the 49ers during the five months when the 49ers needed somebody to step up and take charge during the lockout.

Smith was the point person with San Jose State officials to arrange for his teammates to use the Spartans' weight room and fields. The players were not allowed to have any communication with the 49ers' coaches and were banned from the team's property. Smith served as director of football operations, head coach, offensive coordinator and, yes, starting quarterback during that time.

Harbaugh handed Smith a copy of the 49ers' playbook when a judge ordered the lockout lifted for one day in late-April. The next day, the lockout was back in effect after the NFL appealed to a federal court.

Smith spent a month studying the playbook and perusing the PowerPoint material and film he collected from the 49ers' coaching staff. Then, he got in touch with every 49ers offensive player to arrange two weeks of playbook study sessions and on-field work.

The result was "Camp Alex," which gave the offense a head start they would not have otherwise been afforded. Smith's work was commendable -- especially considering he had yet to sign his one-year, $4.9 million contract. Gore and right guard Chilo Rachal were the only 49ers offensive players under contract, then and now, who did not attend any of the sessions.

Smith has done everything in his power to give himself the best chance of having a successful season. And, sure enough, Harbaugh named Smith the starting quarterback for the season opener after he outplayed rookie Colin Kaepernick in practices and in the four exhibition games.

Beyond that, Smith has a lot to prove in his seventh NFL season after being the No. 1 overall pick in 2005.

Coach Mike Singletary named Smith a captain prior to last season. But when Smith did not produce as well as Singletary had hoped, the coach lost faith in Smith and gambled his future on the play of Troy Smith. Singletary was fired, landing a job as Minnesota Vikings linebackers coach, and Troy Smith is still waiting for the phone to ring.

Alex Smith is the 49ers' quarterback and, thus, he must be viewed in the locker room as a leader.

There is little doubt he is one of the most-liked players on the 49ers. His teammates recognize Smith's perseverance, conscientiousness and commitment. All those qualities are great. If Smith did not do all the right things off the field, there is no chance he would still be suiting up for the 49ers.

But it's also clear that leadership by example -- performance on game days -- is what ultimately wins the respect of the locker room.

49ers have blank canvas at QB position

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49ers have blank canvas at QB position

INDIANAPOLIS – With the expected formality of Colin Kaepernick opting out of his contract, the 49ers have no quarterbacks lined up for the 2017 season.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he is lumping free-agents-to-be Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis into the same category with all the other quarterbacks who will be available for the 49ers this offseason.

“We don’t have anybody on our roster, so I throw them all in the category of everybody else who’s a free agent and the possibilities going into the draft,” Shanahan said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

”Those are the guys we’re comparing who you see in the free-agent market, who there is in the draft and trade possibilities and guys on the roster last year is who we’re picking from.”

The free-agent signing period begins on March 9. Over the next eight weeks, Shanahan will also be busy evaluating the crop of rookie quarterbacks – a process he is just now beginning, he said.

“I’ll spend this week getting to know these guys and watching a lot of tape back in the hotel room and have an idea of who everybody is, just from the interview process,” Shanahan said.

Falcons coach Quinn: 49ers' offense, defense in good hands

Falcons coach Quinn: 49ers' offense, defense in good hands

INDIANAPOLIS – Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn believes the 49ers’ offense and defense have capable people charge.

Quinn, speaking Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, has worked on the same staffs with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who will run the team’s offense, and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

Saleh, who served as Jacksonville’s linebackers coach the past three season, spent one season on the Seattle staff when Quinn was defensive coordinator.

“He has a really good and rock-solid understanding of the principles of playing three-deep and man-to-man,” Quinn said of Saleh. “He’s an excellent teacher. And, I think, as a coordinator that’s a really important thing, especially when you’re first putting the whole thing together so everyone has a real clear understanding and they’re all on the same page. So I think he’ll do a fantastic job.”

Shanahan did not hire an assistant to serve under the title of offensive coordinator. Instead, he will assume those duties with the 49ers while also overseeing the entire operation as head coach. Shanahan has been an NFL offensive coordinator for eight seasons, including the past two under Quinn with the Falcons.

“He is one of the few coaches who has a full understanding – run game, offensive line, quarterback play, receiver play,” Quinn said of Shanahan. “You could put him into any spot on the offense, and he’ll be able to coach that position. That’s a rare trait. There are some guys who are sto strong in one area. It might be in the run game or so strong in the pass game. But he has a really clear understanding how to do the whole thing.

“I never like to see anybody leave the staff, but what I can appreciate is a guy taking a risk to say, ‘Hey, I want to give this a shot and go battle for it.’ So I’m excited for him and the opportunity he has there.”