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."

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is reportedly “almost certain” to accept the 49ers’ offer to become head coach.

Shanahan is the lone remaining candidate among the six individuals who interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe. The 49ers plan for a second interview with Shanahan and a job offer, a source told Shanahan is expected to accept the 49ers’ offer, reports Michael Silver of the NFL Network, citing sources familiar with both parties.

The 49ers continued to work Tuesday evening on the process of narrowing down the general manager choices, a source said. Shanahan is expected to play a role in the select the team’s next GM, sources said.

On Tuesday, Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner removed their names from consideration for the vacant coach and general manager positions. The 49ers fired Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke after the 49ers' 2-14 season.

One source said Cable and Kirchner believed the 49ers were using them as leverage to hire Shanahan. Cable interviewed with 49ers co-chair Denise DeBartolo York over the phone on Tuesday, NFL Network reported.

The 49ers are allowed to interview Shanahan for a second time after the Falcons’ NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The 49ers are prohibited from hiring or making a formal contract offer to Shanahan until the Falcons' season has concluded.

The top remaining candidates for the general manager job are believed to be Green Bay executives Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf, Arizona's Terry McDonough and Minnesota's George Paton.

Source: 49ers plan second interview with Shanahan; Cable withdraws name

Source: 49ers plan second interview with Shanahan; Cable withdraws name

The 49ers will interview Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan after this weekend’s NFC Championship game, a source told on Tuesday.

The only remaining head-coach candidate, Tom Cable, formally withdrew from consideration, according to his agent, Doug Hendrickson. Cable interviewed with the 49ers on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the 49ers also have a general manager vacancy to fill. The team is in the process of narrowing down their list of eight candidates, a source said. Seattle’s Trent Kirchner pulled his name from consideration on Tuesday. The 49ers could have a round of second interviews for the GM job.

The 49ers fired coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke after the club finished the regular season with a 2-14 record.

The 49ers conducted their first interview with Shanahan on Jan. 6, as allowed by NFL rules, when the Falcons were on their bye in the first week of the playoffs as the NFC’s No. 2 seed.

The 49ers are allowed to conduct a second interview with Shanahan next week, regardless of whether the Falcons advance to the Super Bowl or their season comes to a conclusion against the Green Bay Packers.

If the Falcons advance to the Super Bowl, the 49ers would not be able to make a formal contract offer to Shanahan until following the Super Bowl.

Shanahan, 37, is the son for two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan. He has served nine NFL seasons as an offensive coordinator. His offenses have ranked in the top-10 of total offense in six of those seasons.

Shanahan interviewed for the head-coaching vacancies with Jacksonville and Denver this offseason. Another scheduled interview with the Los Angeles Rams was canceled when Rams officials could not get to Atlanta due to weather conditions.