Jim Harbaugh presented two options Friday for Alex Smith's future, and neither involved getting released from the 49ers.
"That will be a process that will play out: Alex Smith continuing to be a 49er or if a trade occurs in the next weeks or months, those are the two possibilities, the most likely possibilities," Harbaugh told reporters at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Whether the 49ers want to invest $8.5 million into Smith remaining on their roster is a pressing issue, one that likely will be decided before April 1, when that money becomes guaranteed. A trade can't be consummated until March 12, when the new league year begins.
"Alex is really playing the best football of his career the past two years," Harbaugh said.
"We think we have the best quarterback situation in the NFL. I feel strongly about that." Once Smith sustained a Nov. 12 concussion, Colin Kaepernick stepped in and seized the position, leading the 49ers all the way to Super Bowl XLVII, where they fell 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens.
Kaepernick took a week off before resuming workouts on his own in Atlanta, where he's been joined by a few of the 49ers' young receivers.
"He has a great attitude, a great work ethic," Harbaugh said of Kaepernick. "People that have a great attitude and work ethic, there are very few circumstances or situations that can keep you from being good. That goes for anybody. Maybe there's a percentage of really bad luck I'm not factoring in. But darn near 100 percent." Harbaugh indeed is on speaking terms with his brother, John, who coached the Baltimore Ravens past younger brother Jim's 49ers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
"We discussed some facets of the game and some other football talk," Jim Harbaugh said. "We've got a strong relationship and it always seems to get stronger. Very close." The Harbaugh brothers were last seen shaking hands at midfield after the Ravens defeated the 49ers.
Before attending the combine and helping evaluate how the 49ers might use their expected 14 draft picks, Harbaugh traveled Thursday to Indiana University and attended the Hoosiers' basketball practice. Indiana is coached by his brother-in-law, Tom Crean, who tweeted: "Jim Harbaugh was here for practice yesterday. Every1 loved it. He had his #iubenchmob T-shirt on under the 49er sweatshirt. He is invested."
Harbaugh declared himself a fan of the show "Judge Judy" for its value in telling the truth. "When you lie in Judge Judy's courtroom, it's over," Harbaugh said. "Your credibility is completely lost and you stand no chance of winning that case. So I learned that from her. It's very powerful and true. If somebody lies to you, how can you trust anything they ever say after that?"