Harbaugh: Unanimous within 49ers that Smith is 'our guy'

February 8, 2012, 3:16 pm
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On Saturday, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith went on stage to accept the award for NFL Coach of the Year on behalf of Jim Harbaugh.The two men played golf together on Tuesday at Pepple Beach as part of a five-hole 49ers vs. San Francisco Giants charity shootout. And on Thursday, Smith will serve as Harbaugh's caddie on the first day of the AT&T National Pro-Am.Smith is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but it appears highly unlikely that he'll still be available to the other 31 teams in the league when the free-agent signing period opens March 13.Harbaugh has made it clear he wants Smith re-signed, and he said Tuesday on "Chronicle Live" that the 49ers' decision-makers are in agreement that Smith is needed back.
"We're all in lockstep as an organization that Alex Smith is our guy. It's well-documented. You saw the way he played this year," Harbaugh told host Jim Kozimor. "(He is a) tremendous leader on our football team."There's Alex and there are other guys, too, that are high priorities. We want our guys. There are guys who play like 49ers, and what they do is they play their hearts out for our team. So Alex and others, (it's) going to be a high-priority to get those guys signed."RELATED: Alex Smith 2011 game logs
Smith, who turns 28 in May, posted career-best numbers in 2011 with 61.4 percent completions, 3,144 yards passing and a 90.7 passer rating. He threw 17 touchdown passes and just five interceptions while starting all 16 games. More important, the 49ers won the NFC West with a 13-3 record and advanced to the NFC Championship Game, where they lost 20-17 to the New York Giants in overtime."We're going to need to be better this year," Harbaugh said. "We're going to draft lower (No. 30). We'll play probably a harder schedule because we won the division. Expectations will be higher and teams will be coming after us. For a lot of reasons, we're going to have to be better."And Smith, who also appeared on "Chronicle Live" on Tuesday, agrees he must improve -- and his team must improve."For me, it's all about strengthening your weaknesses -- getting better," Smith said, "really analyzing where you need to get better and being honest with yourself, as a player and as a team. That's what will happen in the coming weeks."Smith returned to the 49ers in 2011 on a one-year contract that paid him a total of 6.5 million after hearing boos from the home crowd the previous season."I always felt supported in the Bay Area," Smith said. "Everywhere I go, I've always felt that support."In reference to the boos he heard in 2010, Smith said, "It's understandable. I'm a sports fan. When you're team is struggling, it's frustrating."But it is the memory of the 49ers' home playoff games that will drive Smith and his teammates to get better, he said."I don't think I'll ever forget the two home games at the 'Stick, the two playoff games and what that atmosphere was like, what the fans were like," Smith said. "That's what we're striving to get back to, get back to that environment because it was special. And once you get a taste of that, you don't want anything else."