When Alex Smith decided to give up on tasting free agency, he realized something very simply. All his seasons in San Francisco with the 49ers before Jim Harbaugh took over, and everything that happened in the 2011 season, Smith’s best since he was the number one pick in the 2005 NFL draft.

People doubted Smith before he steeped up in front of Drew Brees in the NFC, despite the 49ers’ 13-3 season in 2011. Then he produced a 299 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0(!!) interceptions performance. He led two drives of 80 and 85 yards in the final four minutes, and ran for a touchdown himself. He was one field goal kick away from making it to the Super Bowl. All that from a quarterback who’s been referred to by many as one of the worst number one picks of all time.

Alex Smith is slowly turning into the kind of quarterback a team believes in. It took over half a decade and a few head coaches and offensive coordinators, but he’s gotten there. In the right kind of system, Smith is a gem behind Center. When he’s not under pressure to make the plays with his arm, and not having his team rely solely on him to take care of the offense. Smith has the best defense in the NFL behind him, decent protection and a very good running game to draw away the attention. In that kind of system and environment, one which actually believes in him and plays to his strengths and not the perceived ideal of what a quarterback should be, Smith suddenly looks pretty good.

How was he against he Packers? 20-26, 211 yards, two touchdowns, a quarterback rating of 125.6. He even got Aaron Rodgers to where a shirt of his after losing a bet for losing the game. Rodgers threw an interception that ended the Packers’ chance of a final attempt at a comeback. Smith? He hasn’t thrown an interception on his last 185 passes, setting a new franchise record. Yes, Alex Smith owns a positive record for a franchise that had Steve Young (the previous record holder with 184) and Joe Montana as their QB1’s.

He was just great all game. Used his legs, used his arm, used his mind, used his toughness. His mind? I mean, I hope I used my mind … For me, it’s making good decisions. Being good with the football, being smart with the football. 

John Harbaugh has turned around the 49ers, with a little help from his predecessors and some good additions in the two seasons before of his arrival, into, possibly, the best team in the NFC, although you know that for sure when the Super Bowl arrives, not by the regular season record. The most incredible thing about this? Alex Smith might have turned into a quarterback that has an actual shot of leading his team to the Super Bowl.

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