Jim Harbaugh sees Alex Smith as long-term starter

The San Francisco 49ers were not 24 hours removed from their whipping of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night at power-challenged Candlestick Park when Jim Harbaugh talked about Alex Smith being the future of the organization.

The quarterback has certainly performed well with the Niners 11-3 and in the hunt for a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. The idea was Smith would come back this season and help bring along second-round draft pick Colin Kaepernick.

Now, it seems like the future would point to Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick. Harbaugh pushed for Smith for the Pro Bowl even though fan balloting is now closed.

“<a href="http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/2011/12/inside-the-49ers/harbaugh-says-alex-smith-is-a-pro-bowler-and-the-niners-long-term-qb-really/" target="_blank">It’s possible,” he said at his press conference today, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “That’s the low-hanging fruit – just go right to the yardage line or the touchdown passes line. I think people that understand football understand that there’s a lot more that goes into the job of a quarterback than those statistics.

"Whenever a player’s just thinking about statistics, whether it be sacks or yardage, those kind of agendas – interceptions – they can often hurt the team. But we’ll see. There’s other great players out there in the National Football (Conference). I believe there’s three that go to the Pro Bowl, right? Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Alex Smith – I think those are the top three in the NFC in my humble opinion.”

Eli Manning is having a terrific season and so are Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo and Cam Newton, among others. It should be pointed out that the Niners have been very poor in the red zone. But Smith has played well and Harbaugh was asked if he believes Smith is the long-term starter for the franchise.

“I do,” he said.

The 49ers have some business to consider when the offseason arrives.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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