Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Alex Smith, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, is playing the game his way.
Alex Smith, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, is playing the game his way.

49ers' Smiths strike gold

Aldon, Alex and Justin have turned the fortunes around of San Francisco's average NFL franchise.

The most common US family name, by far, is Smith, with nearly 2.4 million people answering to it. Three of those people can claim credit for San Francisco surfacing as the surprise team of the year.

In alphabetical order, meet linebacker Aldon, quarterback Alex and defensive tackle Justin. A team whose ceiling before the season was widely considered break-even now stands 11-3, one of four to have already locked up a division title.

Aldon is closing in on Denver's Von Miller, presumptive Defensive Rookie of the Year conferee. He has 13 sacks, tied for fifth league-wide. "Rookie of the year would mean a lot," said Aldon, a first-round draft pick versatile enough to often line up at end.

The position expected by 49ers followers to come out of the opening round was quarterback.

Any quarterback.

In five previous seasons as starter, Alex had yet to deliver a single winning record. It was his good fortune that coach Jim Harbaugh, who crafted a run-minded offence that demands little from the quarterback, came aboard.

Though Smith ranks in the league's bottom half for passing yards, his interception count (five) is second only to Tim Tebow. Alex's passer rating is ninth, and he has turned over just two fumbles.

Harbaugh dismisses Alex's modest yard and touchdown numbers, saying, "People who understand football know a lot more goes into being a quarterback than those statistics."

Says Alex, who dealt with smothering expectations as the No 1 overall draft choice in 2005: "When I was young, I just tried to please everybody. I don't really care about that stuff now."

Alex felt misused or unappreciated by his prior head coaches. He has delighted Harbaugh so much that the coach is campaigning for Alex to join Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees on the NFC Pro Bowl roster.

The eldest Smith most excites Harbaugh, who labels him the 49ers' MVP. "Justin Smith, play after play, he's kicking [tail]," Harbaugh says of the 11-year veteran.

Not to be overlooked is the 49ers' back-up safety, Reggie Smith.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Manager Matt Williams benching star Bryce Harper, above, may have sent the wrong message to the rest of the Washington Nationals. Mike Ehrmann / AFP

Benching Harper sends Williams’s right message the wrong way

Matt Williams, the Washington Nationals manager, made the biggest move of his 18-game tenure on Saturday, benching rising star Bryce Harper for his “lack of hustle”.

 Players such as George Springer are a sign that things are starting to swing in the Houston Astros' favour. But more help is needed. Scott Halleran / AFP

Houston Astros are still earth-bound but help is on the way

As harbingers of a new era go, the Houston Astros could have done worse than misspelling their new phenom’s name on his major-league debut.

 Luis Suarez became the first Liverpool player to score 30 Premier League goals in a season since Ian Rush in 1987. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Sterling and Suarez inpire Liverpool to win over Norwich City

The win takes the Premier League table-toppers to 80 points from 35 games.

 Arsenal's Lukas Podolski celebrates his second goal during the Premier League match against Hull City at The KC Stadium in Hull, England, on April 20, 2014. Lynne Cameron / AP Photo

Arsenal maintain push for top-four finish with victory at Hull

Hull could end up in Europe regardless of the FA Cup final result if Arsenal finish in the Uefa Champions League places

 Chelsea’s manager Jose Mourinho, second from right, holds back assistant coach Rui Faria, centre, after he was sent off by referee Mike Dean, left, during their Premier League match against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in London. Philip Brown / Reuters

Angry Jose Mourinho mocks referees for ‘fantastic performance’ after Chelsea defeat

Manager targets Mike Dean, who awarded the 82nd-minute penalty from which Fabio Borini scored the winning goal for Sunderland.

 Michelle Wie’s other two LPGA titles also came in North America, at the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico and at Canadian Women’s Open in August of 2010. Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Michelle Wie’s win snaps LPGA title drought

The American, who erased a four-shot deficit to win with a 14-under par total of 274, wins her third career LPGA crown.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National