Smith, Crabtree show confidence in one another


Smith, Crabtree show confidence in one another

The topic was confidence.

Specifically, the topic was Alex Smith's confidence. And it produced another uniquely Jim Harbaugh moment.

Any speculation that Smith's confidence went in the tank after two rough games against the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks was, in Harbaugh's words, "Just gobble, gobble, turkey, funk jive, turkey, gobblers."

OK.Personally, I haven't detected any week-to-week fluctuations in Smith's demeanor this season. But I believe there was something significant that happened Monday night in the 49ers' 24-3 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

And, perhaps, it was all about confidence.

But it was not so much Smith's confidence in himself that was particularly noticeable. It was Smith's confidence in wide receiver Michael Crabtree that, really, for the first time was on display.

Following the 49ers' loss in the NFC Championship game -- immediately afterward in the locker room and again the next day as he was departing -- Crabtree looked to be the most frustrated player on a team of frustrated players.

Crabtree watched how the New York Giants offense functioned. And he also singled out the New England Patriots. And he wanted the 49ers to be more like those teams.

"I was seeing guys getting the ball thrown to them and they had three people on them," Crabtree said the day after the 49ers' 2011 season ended. "They were getting a chance to make a play."

Smith rarely has given Crabtree chances to make plays on his own.

Crabtree has lobbied Smith to give him more opportunities even when there is not a lot of separation between him and the closest defender. And on Monday night, Smith finally gave Crabtree that chance.

On and third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, the Cardinals came with an all-out blitz. When Smith committed to throw to Crabtree, cornerback Patrick Peterson had his hands on Crabtree at the line of scrimmage. There was zero separation.

Smith did not hesitate. He showed trust in himself to make the throw. And he also showed trust in Crabtree that either he was going to catch it or nobody was going to catch it.

Crabtree made a nice catch, displaying strong hands and concentration to haul in the pass against Peterson's objections. Crabtree did his part to earn the trust of Smith on future throws.

"We're always talking about it," Crabtree said, "but when it happens in a game, you just have to make the most of it."

In another good sign of trust between Smith and Crabtree, the two went off-script to team up on a 9-yard touchdown just before the end of the half.

"The two guys were on the same page," Harbaugh said. "Michael really broke off his route. Alex read his body language. Michael came back inside. Alex hit him and then Crab found the lane to the end zone."

Smith and Crabtree hooked up for two red-zone touchdowns. Prior to Monday night, Crabtree had caught just two Smith-thrown touchdown passes in the red zone in their previous four-plus seasons together.

Crabtree had every reason to like the approach of Troy Smith (remember him?) better than Alex Smith. Troy Smith, to a fault, would throw the ball up for Crabtree to track down during his brief stint as the 49ers' starting quarterback in 2010

.Alex Smith was a lot more calculated with his throws to Crabtree on Monday. But the fact that he made those passes was a significant development. When defenses are successful limiting the effectiveness of tight end Vernon Davis, Smith needs to be able to exploit single coverage on Crabtree.

So, yes, it could be a matter of confidence. And after Monday's showing, there is good reason for Smith and Crabtree to grow that kind of trust in each other.

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 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.

Pats OC McDaniels 'impressed' by York, Marathe

Pats OC McDaniels 'impressed' by York, Marathe

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels announced Monday morning he has pulled his name from consideration for the 49ers’ head-coaching job.

McDaniels interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe on Saturday, Jan. 7, while the Patriots were on the bye week as the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. McDaniels indicated he also met with Brian Hampton, the 49ers’ director of football administration and analytics.

"I was really impressed with Jed York and Paraag and Brian, and people that came for the 49ers organization,” McDaniels said in a conference call with reporters who cover the Patriots.

“They did a great job with their presentation,” McDaniels added. “Again, (I’m) humbled to be included in that process. At this time, it's just best for my family and myself to remain here in New England, and focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the year however it turns out."

McDaniels said his main focus would be on helping prepare the Patriots to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in the AFC Championship game.

McDaniels, 40, was viewed as one of the hot head-coaching candidates, along with Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, this offseasons. He has served the past five seasons as New England’s offensive coordinator under Bill Belichick.

Shanahan becomes the leading candidate for the 49ers’ job. The 49ers interviewed Seattle offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable on Sunday. Shanahan and Cable are the only known remaining candidates for the job to replace Chip Kelly, who was hired after a 2-14 season.

McDaniels became Denver’s head coach in 2009. He was fired after 12 games in 2010 after his teams compiled an 11-17 record. He returned to the Patriots in 2012 and has served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Bill Belichick’s staff.

McDaniels, who also interviewed with the 49ers last year, also had interviews on Jan. 7 with Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Rams. Jacksonville hired Doug Marrone, while the Rams hired Sean McVay.

“I've always said how grateful I am for this opportunity to work here for Mr. Kraft his family and coach under Bill with a lot of great guys on our staff and have the privilege to work with the players we get to work with each day," McDaniels said. "It's a great opportunity. Very thankful to be here and very much looking forward to this week against Pittsburgh."