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Doug Robinson: Jim Harbaugh created a mess with mishandling of 49ers' QB situation

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5 2012 7:01 a.m. MST

"He's a neat guy," Harbaugh told reporters in the summer of 2011. "I'm really interested in him, in just the character of Alex Smith. He's been maligned by the hometown fans there. And he's really even been thrown under the bus by his own team more than once. And the kind of character of a guy that would want to come back, prove himself with that same football team, that's rare kind of character. (It) probably falls somewhere in the endangered and extinct range. So we can win with that."

Now Harbaugh has thrown him under the bus.

A few months ago the coach was pursuing Peyton Manning. After failing to sign the veteran quarterback, he had to smooth things over with Smith. Now what does he say to Smith if he needs him to lead the team again? How many times will Smith buy into what the Niners and their coaches tell him?

Harbaugh should know better. He was an NFL quarterback for 14 years. In 1994, he lost his starting job while ranked second in the NFL in passing. Yahoo NFL reporter Michael Silver asked several of Harbaugh's former teammates how he would have reacted if he had been Smith. Bottom line: He would've gone ballistic. Smith has remained largely silent and dignified since his benching.

This strange turn of events is only the latest in a long history of poor treatment by the club. The 49ers couldn't have mishandled their No. 1 draft pick more if they had planned it. They had seven offensive coordinators and four head coaches in his first seven seasons, and each one seemed to have a knack for doing the wrong thing with Smith. They gave him mediocre receivers. They threw him into action before he was ready. They publicly questioned his manhood by questioning the severity of a shoulder injury (which later required surgery). They benched him several times in favor of the Flavor of the Month, whether it was J.T. O'Sullivan, Shaun Hill or Troy Smith. At one point, they announced publicly that he would be released at end of season, and they berated him on the sideline in front of teammates and a national TV audience.

Then right when Smith was reaching the peak of his game, he was benched.

There is no doubt that Kaepernick is talented, but this wasn't the time to put him on the field. Smith deserved more than that.

Email: drob@desnews.com

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