Steve Young: Smith has 'earned every bit of it'


Steve Young: Smith has 'earned every bit of it'

Steve Young, as well as anybody, can relate to the Alex Smith story.Young, who came to a team in 1987 that already had Joe Montana at quarterback, was not always the popular choice among 49ers followers. But Young persevered through a polarizing quarterback controversy and an unpopular Montana trade to the Kansas City Chiefs.He came out the other end as a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and a first-ballot selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.So when Young's team record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception was broken Sunday, he celebrated Smith's accomplishment because of the noble path Smith chose to continue to follow."The thing I most respect about him is a year ago in the offseason, when Jim (Harbaugh) was coming on, it was rough," Young told "He could've easily gone and tried it somewhere else. It was hard to come back in many ways. It was not easy. It was the kind of challenge that could've turned south very fast."He not only managed that with Jim and got through all of that last year, he built people's confidence inside and outside the building. By the end of the year, people were like, 'This is our guy.' That's an accomplish because I've lived it. That's a heck of an accomplishment. It's something I really respect about what he has done."In 1989, Montana set the 49ers record for most pass attempts without an interception (154). Four years later, Young bettered the standard at 184. That mark stood until Sunday when Smith played his sixth consecutive regular-season game without throwing an interception."Very cool," Smith said. "Obviously, that's an elite group here that's played this position for this organization. It's definitely an honor to be mentioned with those guys."Smith's record does not even include the 68 attempts in the playoffs when he threw five touchdowns and no interceptions.Smith eclipsed Young's record on a day in which he completed 20 of 26 attempts for 211 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-22 victory over the favored Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field."I was ecstatic for him," Young said. "I've lived his pain a little bit just watching him. And to see this start to flourish with Jim and what he did last year and then continue it and have a great game on the road -- all that stuff. It just couldn't happen at a better time."It's perfect, right? You beat the Packers and you did this great thing. So I'm really happy for him."Smith has thrown 11 touchdown passes since his last interception. During that time the 49ers have also gone 26 consecutive regular-season quarters without a giveaway of any kind."It's hard just because some of it is actually out of your control as a quarterback," Young said of interceptions. "There are tipped balls and weird stuff that happens. Or somebody turns the wrong way. It's just not easy to stay clean like that."I think it's a big deal. It's kind of how I feel about the efficiency ratings. They're not a perfect sign of how you're playing, but if your rating is high, you're probably playing pretty good. If it's low, you're probably playing pretty bad. So if you have a streak like that with no interceptions, you're probably playing pretty good."Young, now an analyst on ESPN, sees a quarterback who is playing at a high level after a rough beginning to his career. Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, struggled with injuries, inconsistent play and a constantly changing supporting cast through his first six NFL seasons."Obviously, he's very, very smart and very, very prepared," Young said. "And now he's got a partner in crime to call plays that help him and put him in good spots. I feel he's getting more confident and he's starting to stretch a little bit. I don't think he's asked, yet, to just throw it around and go. But that's not the way the 49ers need to do it right now. I definitely see a lot more confidence and all good things from Alex. For what they're doing right now, he's doing it perfectly."Young said the only time he questioned Smith's physical ability was after he sustained a separated throwing shoulder early in the 2007 season and returned to action to start three more games. Smith eventually underwent season-ending surgery, and spent all of 2008 on injured reserve, too."I was afraid he was playing hurt, but I never questioned whether he could throw the football or whether he could move around in the pocket or whether he was smart enough and had the savvy and guile," Young said. "When he injured his shoulder, he actually had to play hurt. That just compounded the issues."Everything about Smith -- and around Smith -- is more sturdy these days, Young said."I think he's getting bigger and stronger. And his confidence . . . He seems stronger in the pocket. It all goes together," Young said. "If somebody is calling plays you like, you got confidence, you got a running back (Frank Gore) where every time you put the ball in his stomach everybody lights up, that's great stuff. And the defense hands it back to you."He's in a really cool spot with everything that's going on with the team and the coach. Really, this is the team to beat right now. There are the 49ers and everybody else. I know it's early, but that's just how it is right now. It's kind of a neat spot for Alex to be in. And he's earned every bit of it."AP Images

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday he does not believe quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being “blackballed” in his attempt to continue his career.

“I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue,” Goodell said during his press conference to conclude the NFL owners meetings.

“My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams. But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”

Kaepernick remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent after opting out of his 49ers contract earlier this month. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman this week was asked on ESPN’s "First Take" whether he felt Kaepernick was being blackballed.

"I'm sure he is," Sherman answered. "It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand."

General manager John Lynch on Tuesday said the 49ers have not had any contact with Kaepernick since he and coach Kyle Shanahan met with Kaepernick on Feb. 22 in Santa Clara. The 49ers signed free-agent quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have shown no interest in re-signing Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, 29, created a controversy last season when he opted to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States. Kaepernick has decided to stand for the national anthem this season.

Earlier in the day, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it was “stupid” and “intellectually lazy” to think teams have colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Last week, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother, said Kaepernick is still an outstanding player and can win championships.

“I absolutely think he’s going to get signed,” John Harbaugh said. “I agree with Jim. He can win games for people.”


49ers GM Lynch speaks with Harbaugh about Michigan prospects

49ers GM Lynch speaks with Harbaugh about Michigan prospects

PHOENIX – John Lynch’s draft preparation as a first-year NFL general manager prompted him to make a phone call Monday to Jim Harbaugh.

“I talked to an old 49ers coach yesterday,” Lynch said at the NFL owners meetings. “He was great. He has a lot of players who are draftable. (He) gave me a lot of great information, and it was entertaining, as it always is with Jim.

“He just said, ‘Fired up for you, man,’ then we started talking about his players. He had to go to a meeting and I had to go to a meeting, so it was quick.”

Before Lynch could quiz Harbaugh about some of the Wolverines’ draft-eligible prospects, Harbaugh had a brief chance to catch up with his brother, John, the Baltimore Ravens head coach.

“It was fun because right when we called, his brother was right there,” Lynch said.

“So John came over and before I could get on the phone, John and Jim were talking. I said, ‘Hey, you’re cutting into my time, give me the phone.’ We had a good time.”

Michigan’s top prospects are safety Jabrill Peppers, who won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most-versatile player, and edge rusher Taco Charlton.

Lynch said he does not ask “lazy questions” of any college coach about his former players. Instead, he’s looking at specifics, such as what position a player is better suited to play at the NFL level.

Harbaugh, who was let go after the 49ers' 8-8 season of 2014, enters his third season at his alma mater after two seasons with 10-3 records.