Cohn: Harbaugh won't compare QBs

  • San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh smiles during NFL football training camp in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)


It's a clich?but it's true. The 49ers are putting Alex Smith in a position to succeed.

Thursday was the first day Smith could practice — more on how he did in a minute. You had to notice how much the organization has given him and the team. Frank Gore is back. Braylon Edwards, newly signed, was running routes, Edwards, the big receiver the Niners have craved.

The team has given Smith a Pro Bowl center and a new, quarterback-oriented, offense-oriented head coach. On defense there is a rookie pass rusher and an entirely new secondary. All of this should help Smith succeed — if he's capable of succeeding.

That's the rub. Smith is the hub of all these new people. Everything depends on him. Can he succeed? That's the question of all questions, and at this moment it is unanswerable.

Easier to answer is this. How did Smith do on Thursday?

He was excellent in the red zone, throwing exactly where he needed to, understanding the offense, being precise. He was excellent at all passes 15 yards or under. His ball sometimes wobbled on longer passes. He got picked off, by my count, three times. He had two passes tipped — and getting tipped is a Smith specialty.

Colin Kaepernick has a stronger arm, no question. The ball leaps out of his hand. But Kaepernick was weak in the red zone, often not knowing where to throw, not understanding the offense as well as Smith.

Afterward, a reporter asked if Smith felt nervous.

"I'd like to say, &‘no,' but of course it's been seven, eight months since the last time I practiced," he said. "It's been too long. I missed it out there, bodies flying around. I was pretty jacked up. It didn't help having to watch basically a week. You could sign but you can't do anything. It was great to finally get out there."

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