Harbaugh and Smith: A story of birth and re-birth

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Harbaugh and Smith: A story of birth and re-birth

Alex Smith had known Jim Harbaugh for only four months. He was about the last person he expected to see on May 11.Even though NFL rules limited the amount of contact team employees could have with players during the lockout, Harbaugh was there for Smith on the biggest day of his life.Smith's wife, Elizabeth, had given birth to the couple's first child, a boy they named Hudson. And Harbaugh was among the first visitors at the hospital that day."I was still in the nursery," Smith recalled this week. "He (Hudson) was just taken to get his bath. You know how they have those windows there? I was still there, and I look up and there he was."There he was.Jim Harbaugh, the man who had never before coached Alex Smith.RELATED: Har-Bowl 2011 -- full coverage

Jim Harbaugh, the man who would place his trust in Smith when previous coaches seemingly had been quick to lose confidence in the quarterback.On Thanksgiving night, the nation will pay rapt attention to Harbaugh and his brother, John, who is head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. There is an unmistakable family theme intertwined with the game.And that family connection is strong with Smith and his family, too.There is plenty for which Smith to be thankful. Professionally, it all began when the 49ers hired a new coach who met Smith, began studying his past performances with an open mind and developed a bond with him.Smith had already determined the 49ers were his best fit, though he remained unsigned. In late April a district court judge lifted the NFL lockout for a day before a higher court ruled it back in effect.During the brief window Smith could be at the 49ers office, he spent the entire day there, meeting with coaches and gathering material about the new offensive system.Smith would disseminate the information to his offensive teammates in a highly productive series of two weeks at San Jose State that were dubbed "Camp Alex."While preparing to be a first-time father, Smith diligently studied the playbook and watched reams of game video to familiarize himself with the 49ers offense to the point where he could teach it to his teammates.But for a few days in May, football was the furthest thing from his mind.Elizabeth was scheduled for an induced labor. But it wasn't until the next day that she gave birth."She'd gotten induced the day before and everybody knew she was getting induced the day before, so I think he thought he was coming the day after," Smith said of Harbaugh. "But he got there, literally, an hour after the birth."In advance, the 49ers requested permission from the league office for Harbaugh to visit the Smith Family to ensure he was in compliance with NFL rules during the lockout. Because it was viewed purely as a social visit, the league approved.Alex Smith said he was not expecting Harbaugh to visit."We'd just came out of the delivery room. She and I went into the nursery and she'd just gone back to the room," Smith said. "Coach Harbaugh had already been down there in the room and given her flowers."She was in the room with her parents and I stayed with him (Hudson). And she told him I was up one story in the nursery, and that's when I saw him."Smith is having his best season, as the surprising 49ers enter Thursday's game against the Ravens with a 9-1 record. Smith completed 62.4 percent of his attempts with 13 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 93.9 in the first nine games.Harbaugh risked fines from the NFL during the lockout when he repeatedly spoke glowingly of Smith, sending clear messages to Smith through the media at a time when he was not allow to speak to him about football.And Harbaugh made another strong impression that day at the hospital.The coach-quarterback relationship is one in which there must be mutual trust and confidence. Look no further for the reason Alex Smith's career has experienced a re-birth.

49ers Mailbag: Shanahan is overwhelming favorite, if he wants it

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49ers Mailbag: Shanahan is overwhelming favorite, if he wants it

The 49ers have interviewed six head coach candidates and nine prospects for the general manager position.

During the search, 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe admitted to candidates that mistakes were made and the roster is in shambles. They have also promised all the resources necessary and plenty of patience in fixing the problem, according to multiple sources.

Three of the 49ers’ six original coach possibilities – Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams), Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills) and Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers) -- have already taken jobs elsewhere. Perhaps the top candidate, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, decided against uprooting his four children from the East Coast and remain in the no-lose situation of working with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for at least another season.

That leaves Kyle Shanahan and Tom Cable as the last known candidates for the job. And this is where we go to our 49ers Mailbag to answer questions submitted on our Facebook page:

Do you think Kyle Shanahan will be our next coach?‬ (Praize Rodriguez)
I’m not able to predict how strongly Shanahan, 37, wants to become a head coach at this stage in his career. But it appears to be his job if he wants it.

The 49ers decided to wait on McDaniels and Shanahan. McDaniels announced on Monday that he has removed himself from consideration. That leaves Shanahan as the overwhelming favorite for the job. Really, he is the only legitimate candidate for the job.

Cable is regarded around the league as a good coach. In the right circumstances, maybe he will again get the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. But the 49ers might be the worst fit, considering what occurred when he was in the Bay Area as the Raiders coach. Cable's time with the Raiders ended with allegations he punched an assistant coach, breaking his jaw, and had a history of domestic violence.

The 49ers will be able to speak again with Shanahan after the NFC Championship. If the Atlanta Falcons lose, they can get the deal done immediately. If the Falcons advance to the Super Bowl, they must wait until after the game to make things official.

The last team to wait for a Super Bowl coach was the Atlanta Falcons, who ended up with Dan Quinn, who signed a contract in the early morning after the Seattle Seahawks’ loss to New England in Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015.

That worked out pretty well.

Who would be the best GM fit if the 49ers hire Kyle Shanahan?‬ (Brad Peltier) ‬
The 49ers were the only team with a general manager opening this offseason after firing Trent Baalke. With no competition, the 49ers compiled a strong list of interviews for the job.

Assuming Shanahan wants the coach job, he will be able to meet with the finalists for the general manager position and see which of the remaining candidates he believes is the best fit for his philosophy on building a roster.

York and Marathe set out two weeks ago to find the best pairing of coach/general manager, so their input and direction during the final phase will be pivotal, too.

Arizona’s vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough looks like a strong fit. McDonough is believed to have Shanahan ranked at the top of his list of coaches even though the men have never worked together. McDonough has experience on the pro and college scouting sides, and he has helped build one of the top defenses in the NFL with the Cardinals.

Green Bay director of football operations Brian Gutekunst also has extensive history as a college scout, and he impressed the 49ers with a strong interview on Jan. 5. There is also some buzz about Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton and Seattle co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner.

Who do you think will be the defensive coordinator if Shanahan takes the job?‬ (Ryan Cruz)
The 49ers last year received permission from the Houston Texans to interview linebackers coach Mike Vrabel for the position. Vrabel’s stock has only risen after the Texans ranked first in the NFL in total defense under coordinator Romeo Crennel. Vrabel turned down Chip Kelly's job offer.

Vrabel’s name surfaced for the first time this offseason as a head-coaching candidate, though he did not receive a formal interview. This would be a good opportunity to Vrabel to, in essence, be the head coach of the defense while Shanahan’s focus is solely on the offense. This could be a tempting situation for Vrabel because Shanahan's offense does not present the same issues and concerns that defensive coaches had working on the other side of Kelly.

Another strong candidate to join Shanahan’s staff as defensive coordinator is Falcons’ secondary/senior defensive assistant Marquand Manuel. Manuel played eight NFL seasons as a defensive back and worked with Falcons coach Dan Quinn at the University of Florida, then Seattle before moving onto Atlanta.

If Shananahan is coach, is Kap pretty much done in SF?‬ (Juan Ito Heredia)
Of course, that decision on what happens with Colin Kaepernick and the remainder of the roster will be up to the new head coach and general manager.

But one of the 49ers’ main selling points is a fresh start and a clean break from how things have happened in the past. That means the head coach will be free to choose his own staff. That means the general manager can structure the scouting department as he chooses.

That also means, of course, that the coach and general manager will have all the power to assemble the roster.

It is difficult to believe any new coach and new general manager will not want to hit the reset button and start over at the quarterback position.

Report: Chip Kelly interviews for Jags' OC job

Report: Chip Kelly interviews for Jags' OC job

Former 49ers coach Chip Kelly, who was fired hours after the club’s 2-14 season, is reportedly interviewing Monday to become the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive coordinator.

Kelly is interviewing with Jaguars new head coach Doug Marrone, reports radio station 1010 XL in Jacksonville.

Kelly told CSNBayArea.com recently he would take his time to determine his next career move. Kelly interviewed for the Jaguars’ head-coaching job, ESPN reported over the weekend.

“I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” Kelly said two days after his firing. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”

The 49ers fired Kelly with three years, $18 million remaining in his contract. The 49ers hired Kelly just two weeks after the Philadelphia Eagles fired him. Kelly went 26-21 with the Eagles after leaving his successful program with the Oregon Ducks after the 2012 season.