Alex Smith's maturity helps him succeed in Niners' rebirth

By Tim Kawakami

San Jose Mercury News

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 30 2011 6:00 p.m. MST

And Smith looked at the big picture.

"This is what I've started to understand: Where do I have a chance to have success, and by success, I mean win games?" Smith said.

"And for me, it was an easy decision. It was very clear that this was it. I knew the talent we had here. I knew the guys we had. We didn't have a bunch of knuckleheads. We've got a great group.

"Then I liked what I was hearing from Coach Harbaugh."

Yes, Harbaugh. That guy.

Smith was already on the path to edginess, but joining up with Harbaugh certainly didn't hurt the process.

What Smith says he admires most in Harbaugh is that the coach doesn't worry about what anybody else thinks.

After six seasons in partial NFL hell, Smith was 100 percent ready for that.

"The thing I take away most is it's just that mindset, it's that attitude," Smith said. "It's that chip and how to use it."

Yes, Smith has a chip on his shoulder, and he didn't mind when I pointed it out.

The chip definitely showed up when I asked if he believes he needs to kick the passing game into gear to win in the playoffs.

"Where I'm at, I just don't give a crap about that right now," Smith said of his 9-2 team, on the brink of clinching the NFC West crown. "We're winning games, playing football, you know what I'm saying?

"I'm having such a good time playing football and trying to get better at my position and trying to strive for that each and every week, I guess I just don't give a crap right now."

He wouldn't have said it that way six years ago. He would've tried to be nice about it.

Edgy Alex doesn't play it that way; he's an overnight miracle, after six nightmare seasons.

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