Smith also came through Monday during an excellent interview with Sirius' Rich Gannon and Adam Schein.
Smith continues to sound confident and comfortable. He's also calm. Smith stands as the emotional opposite of head coach Mike Singletary.
My thoughts mixed in among the highlights:
Smith: "I think, and coach would even say this, we are very different people, especially on game day. Coach is a little more emotional than I am. As a quarterback, I always feel like it's my job to be that steady, calm presence in there. Game day can be emotional and there are a lot of ups and downs throughout a game, but as a quarterback, you have to be able to see the bigger picture, steady that ship, get all the guys focused in on the task at hand and keep the thing moving. For him, he gets fired up sometimes and gets going and that is really the biggest thing I see, that he does get fired up and gets into the emotion of the game. As a quarterback, especially when I come off to the sideline, I am trying to get things corrected, trying to get things figured out and move on to the next series."
Smith would prefer fewer sideline "conversations" (Gannon's word) with Singletary. When Gannon prefaced a question by saying quarterbacks would rather just play without so much interference from the head coach, Smith interjected with an "exactly" while Gannon was still speaking. Smith: "He's trying to get this ship straightened out. It's something I've gotten used to at this point and I'm ready for, but you're exactly right. As a quarterback, when you do have a three-and-out or things do not go right, you are the first one to know. You know more than anyone out there what went wrong and what needs to be corrected and don't necessarily always need to hear it when you come off to the sideline. It's something I have gotten used to at this point and can deal with." Smith has played better after some of those exchanges, so they apparently are not hurting him. But teams can take on the personalities of their head coaches. They can become as up-and-down or as steady as their coaches. Of course, fiery coaches can win. Jon Gruden has proven so.
Asked to characterize Singletary as a head coach, Smith said the 49ers respect Singletary for his honesty and character. He used the word "refreshing" to describe Singletary's nature as a straight shooter who never would talk behind players' backs. Former coach Mike Nolan came to mind immediately even though Smith did not mention him. Smith has previously indicated Nolan wasn't always forthright with him. Smith: "It's refreshing to have a guy you can trust with certainty that what he is saying is the truth."
Smith attributed the 49ers' success in the red zone to having a very good package of plays for that area of the field. Smith credited former coordinator Jimmy Raye for laying the groundwork and current coordinator Mike Johnson for maintaining continuity. Smith: "We run fast down there, we know what we are doing, we turn the ball loose and we play with a confidence down there that we don't necessarily have in other situations. Not to say we're not confident, but I think there is that extra feeling that when we get in the red zone, we know we have great stuff, we know we have great weapons and we are going to find a way to beat you." Perhaps the 49ers are more focused and purposeful in that area of the field. They have enjoyed similar success elsewhere on the field during other situations demanding focus and purpose, such as the final minutes of games against New Orleans and Philadelphia. But they have not done so consistently.
Playing for a defensive-minded head coach can force quarterbacks to walk a fine line between Turnover Avoidance At All Costs and playing freely. We've seen that to an extent with Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle this season. We've certainly seen it with Smith.
I'll be heading to the airport in Chicago shortly but hope to get more posted as time permits. We had multiple winners in the most recent "You called it" competition after going four weeks without a winner. Fans of NFC West teams tend to pick their teams to win, so having the division post a 3-0 record in Week 6 helped. Games involving NFC West teams also featured some conventional final scores (23-20, 20-17, etc.) and that always helps.