Was new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh serious when he told members of the local media that he had not ruled out Alex Smith as his starting quarterback?
“I think he’s back in the picture only peripherally,” a team insider said of Smith, a free agent whom many considered a lock to be leaving the Bay Area after six maddeningly inconsistent seasons with the Niners. “It’s conceivable he could come back if he does not get any other offers, but I really think he’d prefer a fresh start somewhere else at this point.
“The fans are not behind him at all, and I think he’s tired of all the abuse he has been forced to take.”
Interestingly, it suddenly appears as if veteran David Carr, a backup this past season behind both Alex Smith and Troy Smith, who received minimal playing time, has a much better shot at being the first starter for the Harbaugh regime.
For one thing, the Niners’ ability to add a veteran via free agency or trade is dramatically hindered by the league’s labor impasse — a situation currently facing every team.
Beyond that, Carr had his best pro success in the two years in Houston when Greg Roman, the Niners’ new offensive coordinator, was his quarterbacks coach.
“If he actually started getting all the reps, it could make a difference,” the insider said of Carr, who like Alex Smith is a former No. 1-overall draft pick. “But I can’t forget (GM Trent) Baalke’s comment indicating that the next starter for the Niners will not be somebody currently on the team.”
Of all the possible free-agent or trade alternatives at quarterback, we hear Bengals QB Carson Palmer’s name probably generated the biggest buzz in Niners Nation.
“He would make some sense, considering his familiarity with the West Coast system. But you’d think he’d probably prefer to play for a team with a better chance to win right away,” the insider said. “And with the Bengals coming out and saying they had no intention of letting Palmer go, you have to wonder about him.”
Whether the Niners take their chances with a new starting QB via the 2011 draft remains to be seen.
“One thing the new guy will have to be is accurate,” the insider said. “Baalke has made that clear. It also appears the team is looking for a game manager-type, with the run game being counted on more.”