Hearing Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh gush about their starting quarterbacks can create confusion over their teams' intentions.
Both coaches have had their quarterbacks' backs, and then some. Even before Seattle rebounded from a 2-6 start to reach 7-7, Carroll said he could envision Jackson as the Seahawks' long-term starter. Harbaugh recently called Smith a Pro Bowl-caliber player and long-term answer at quarterback for the 49ers.
What coaches say does not always line up with what NFL owners pay.
Smith has earned a raise, but would the 49ers pay him what Pro Bowl quarterbacks typically earn?
Fourteen QBs earned Pro Bowl honors over the 2009-10 seasons: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Cassel, Brett Favre, David Garrard, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Michael Vick and Vince Young.
Most were playing under and/or subsequently earned massive contracts.
Jackson is entering the final year of a contract that scheduled to pay him $4 million in base salary. Smith is earning $4 million in base salary this season.
Those salaries represent good money for backup quarterbacks.
The 49ers should be able to keep Smith without paying him what those Pro Bowl passers earned. They've already paid millions to him as the No. 1 overall choice in the 2005 NFL draft. Smith has expressed in the past an interest in rewarding the 49ers for an investment that did not work out as intended before this season.
Smith has proven to be a good fit for the 49ers under Harbaugh. Jackson is fitting with Seattle under Carroll. I suspect both have come on strong with their public support to combat lingering negative perceptions about both quarterbacks.
If Jackson or Smith were obviously franchise quarterbacks and long-term solutions behind center, their coaches wouldn't have to convince anyone. It would be obvious. The praise from Carroll and Harbaugh has likely helped both quarterbacks exceed outside expectations no matter what their teams have in mind for them beyond this season.