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

Jaguars retain offensive coordinator, pass on Chip Kelly

Jaguars retain offensive coordinator, pass on Chip Kelly

It appears the Jaguars have passed on Chip Kelly for a second time this month.

After reportedly not getting their head coaching job, Kelly reportedly interviewed for their offensive coordinator position on Monday.

But two days later, Jacksonville announced that Nathaniel Hackett has been retained as offensive coordinator under head coach Doug Marrone.

Kelly told recently he would take his time to determine his next career move.

“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.

Report: Shanahan announced as 49ers' coach to Falcons' staff

Report: Shanahan announced as 49ers' coach to Falcons' staff

The 49ers feel certain they have landed their head coach, according to sources.

And the Atlanta Falcons are reportedly convinced offensive Kyle Shanahan will be entering the head-coaching ranks with the 49ers next season, too.

Atlanta coach Dan Quinn made an announcement to coaches that Shanahan would be the 49ers’ next coach, Mike Silver of the NFL Network reported Wednesday, adding everyone in the room was “super supportive.”

On Wednesday, Quinn was asked at a press conference about Shanahan and the 49ers.

“I know it’s for sure out there, (but it’s) definitely not our story to tell,” Quinn said. “They (the 49ers) will for sure reach out to (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) and to the organization and there will be a window for them if they’d like to visit with him for next week. But that’s really where it’s at, and there’s nothing left to do until then."

The Falcons will face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship game. The 49ers will have a second interview with Shanahan after the game. Shanahan will also become involved in the process to hire the 49ers’ next general manager.

The 49ers are checking with the NFL to determine what is allowable under the league’s anti-tampering policy, according to a league source. If the Falcons win on Sunday, the 49ers would not be able to officially hire Shanahan until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

According to sources, the 49ers have narrowed their initial search for the next general manager to four candidates: Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst of Green Bay, Minnesota’s George Paton and Terry McDonough of Arizona.

The general manager candidates are expected to meet with Shanahan, but it’s unclear whether Shanahan can interview the candidates if the Falcons advance to the Super Bowl and he is not officially the 49ers’ coach. The 49ers are expected to hold a second round of general manager interviews early next week and could fill the position by the end of next week.