Jim Harbaugh virtually hands Alex Smith starting job

Jim Harbaugh removed any intrigue or doubt from what the team’s plans are at quarterback.

As has been speculated for quite a while, Alex Smith is set to return. All the Niners need is for the lockout to end so they can re-sign the No. 1 overall pick from the 2005 draft. Harbaugh has decided to cast his lot in 2011 with Smith with the hopes he can help bring along Colin Kaepernick, the team’s second-round pick from Nevada.

How set is this? Well, Smith has been working out with his former teammates and he and Harbaugh have spoken at length. The first-year coach has virtually handed him the job.

“Well, Alex is going to definitely have the head start,” Harbaugh said Saturday, according to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area. “He has played in the National Football League. He's won games in the National Football League. So if I'm a betting man, I'm betting on Alex Smith.”

Harbaugh must believe he can bring something out of Smith other veteran coaches with strong reputations haven’t been able to do. Keep in mind Smith has worked with Mike McCarthy, Norv Turner and Mike Martz, three successful offensive coaches. It didn’t click for him with them. It’s clear Smith is a bridge to Kapernick, but Harbaugh surely has to have realistic expectations here.

“There's some trust there,” Harbaugh said. “There's faith there. I strongly feel Alex that is going to be back here, so I gave him the playbook.”

Now, that would make for a real story if Smith took the playbook and signed elsewhere.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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