New mindset looks right on 49ers Alex Smith 

click to enlarge 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has taken his fair share of bad treatment from fans. - JEFF CHIU/AP
  • Jeff Chiu/AP
  • 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has taken his fair share of bad treatment from fans.

Now it’s not an issue of redemption. Alex Smith has made it through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, made it past the New Orleans Saints. Now it’s not a matter of words, of arguing his worth.

Now it’s getting to the Super Bowl.

He knows he’s endured, knows he’s survived, knows he’s been called a bust, knows his family recommended against returning to the 49ers when his contract expired at the end of last season and, most importantly, knows in these magical past few months what he has accomplished.

Or more accurately, since a quarterback’s success is only a reflection of his team’s success, what the Niners have accomplished.

So Wednesday, a few days before the biggest game of his career, the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants on Sunday at the ’Stick, Smith was as controlled as he was in the final moments against New Orleans.

What, someone wondered, does his arrival at this point — a place no one dared imagine in September — enable him to say to those who believed he couldn’t be the man the Niners wanted when they made him the first overall pick in the 2005 draft.

“I think if we win this game and go to the Super Bowl,” said Smith, “that will say it in itself. Winning a game as a quarterback this time of the year speaks for itself. That’s how you do talking.

“I just want to focus on this game and prepare myself all week.”

Deep down, however, the pain of the early career must remain. Quarterbacks take abuse. They always have taken it and will take it. But the way Alex was treated, booed almost from the very first snap of any game, tortured because of what happened, not what might happen.

Smith told former Niners quarterback Steve Young in an ESPN interview that what he went through the previous six years, when he had six different offensive coordinators, had shoulder surgery and had no reason to want to hang around, made this season “so much sweeter.”

We leap on bandwagons with alacrity. First we lined up to take shots at Alex. Remember the contention that he fumbled because his hands were too small? Or that because he played in a spread formation at Utah, he never would make it in the NFL? Or the Niners wouldn’t win with him as quarterback?

Now we can’t wait to tell Alex he’s the new Joe Montana or Steve Young.

Someone asked Smith if it were fair to say he’s been performing with a proverbial chip on his shoulder, determined, under the guidance of rookie coach Jim Harbaugh, he as much belongs in the NFL’s final four as Tom Brady or Eli Manning or Joe Flacco.

“I guess I kind of feel the whole team has been playing like that,” Smith said unemotionally.

“I don’t know how many wins we were picked to have at the beginning of this season, but it wasn’t many. We have a chance to go to the Super Bowl, that’s all we wanted. Now we have a lot of people in our corner. But I don’t think it has changed mindset in the locker room.”

The public mindset of Alex Smith has changed. How can we not be pleased?

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at

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Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
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