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49ers stand out as the class of the NFL

  • 49ers quarterback Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes Sunday against the Lions. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

SAN FRANCISCO -- I know what I know, and I’m not going to tell you how I know it. Agreed?

I knew for a fact against the Lions Alex Smith frequently called two plays in the huddle. He would come to the line of scrimmage, look around and, many times — yes many — killed the first play, and that meant the offense ran the second play.

Got that?

But I wanted confirmation. Jim Harbaugh — Harbaugh the Vague and Evasive — was answering postgame questions at his postgame presser in his usual vague way when I asked if Smith called two plays in the huddle and sometimes killed the first play.

Harbaugh eyeballed me as only he can eyeball a media pest. And then he said, “Yes.” The coach actually answered a direct question and gave away a tiny fraction of what he calls “scheme,” and to him scheme is the holy of holies and he never talks about it. Except this time he did. Yes, he said.

There may be a real person inside Coach Harbaugh, for which, at this moment as I write my column on a crushing deadline, I am deeply grateful. Harbaugh went on to say Smith had an especially excellent game. Part of the excellence was getting out of the wrong play at the line, and directing the offense to the right play.

Are you with me? And that leads me to a deep thought about Smith. Many of us — me especially — debate how good he is, or if he’s good at all. Let’s put all that aside for a moment. I mean, he’s 2-0 so far this season. We don’t know if he can bring a team back because lately he hasn’t had to. So that discussion is highly theoretical.

But one thing we know for sure and we know it right now. Smith is special in one area. He is smart in life and, more important, he is football smart. And because of Smith’s intellect, Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman can depend on him not to run the wrong play.

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