Maybe they should rename it bye-bye week. NFL teams have been getting their break, and many subsequently have been breaking down. That sobering thought was presented Wednesday at Ninerville by Alex Smith, who along with his teammates is coming off a bye.
“I’ve seen the reports,” said Smith, the 49ers’ quarterback. “Teams coming off their bye week this season are 3-9.”
That’s not the only reason Smith worked out on his own during a week 49ers players were not required to practice.
He is aware of what has been accomplished and doesn’t want to see it change.
Finally, seven years after he was chosen No. 1 overall in the draft with the hope he would turn the 49ers into winners, he has turned the 49ers into winners.
Not alone, certainly. The defense has been excellent. Frank Gore is running and catching like Frank Gore. The cynical optimism of new coach Jim Harbaugh has been unavoidable.
Yet, it starts with the quarterback. “I don’t think you can take any week off,” Smith said.
The Niners are 5-1 and face the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Candlestick, where they will play three of their next four games. That would have been tough a year ago for Smith, who as others at quarterback for losing teams, was the person at whom booing was directed by the home fans.
As someone who played the position (and well), Harbaugh points out the primary job of the quarterback is to bring his team home a winner. Yet statistics are not to be ignored. And it’s difficult to win tossing numerous interceptions.
“There are different measures,” Harbaugh pointed out when asked how a quarterback should be judged, “but winning is primary. A team plays to win.”
Smith has thrown only two interceptions in the six games. “Alex,” said Harbaugh, “has done a superb job.” Such a terse summation of a player’s performance. “Superb.”
The Browns-49ers history goes back to the late 1940s and the All-America Football Conference, although those Browns became the Baltimore Ravens in 1996.
These Browns came back as an expansion team in 1999.
The history includes such great quarterbacks as Otto Graham, Frankie Albert and John Brodie, and in later years, Joe Montana and Steve Young.
If Smith, dealing over time with seven offensive coordinators and numerous injuries, doesn’t quite equal that group, he has found his comfort zone and rhythm. And his confidence.
Asked if this was his best bye week psychologically, a time Alex could reflect and find satisfaction in what he and the team has done so far, Smith was properly wary. Football folk always are worried.
“It’s just too early to think about things like that,” was Smith’s answer. “The pressure is to keep going.”
Smith has a passer rating of 95.2, which is ninth-best in the NFL. No less significantly, the Niners have a record, which with only one loss, virtually is tied for second best in the NFL, behind the unbeaten Packers.
Harbaugh was asked about the future, and he came back with “Everybody wants answers to how, what, when.”
“Are we good enough to keep doing what we’ve done?” the coach asked rhetorically, “Everybody in the league has the ability to beat us, and we have the ability to beat everyone.”
Which this season they’ve done five times out of six.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.