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Alex Smith, Jim Harbaugh: The Ultimate Test Of Faith?

Just when it seemed likely that the Alex Smith, 49ers stories were going to be coming to an end, they have regained new life. Although Alex Smith had indicated he was not likely to return to San Francisco (the "ummm, seriously?" comment), Jim Harbaugh apparently has some interest in Smith's potential (Sac BeePress Democrat):

"I've been studying Alex Smith and watching him," Harbaugh told Grant Napear on KHTK radio in Sacramento. "And I believe that Alex Smith can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League. I'm excited to work with him, get to know him ..."

Napear asked what Harbaugh liked about Smith. "Very accurate passer, very athletic - a guy that has played and been durable," Harbaugh said.

I think there are several ways to take this. The smaller possibility that always end up on my mind is that with the potential for a protracted lockout, anything lasting into August could lead to free agency being delayed a year and all free agents returning to their current team for one more year. If that's the case, it would be wise for Coach Harbaugh to show some confidence in a guy that could be his QB next year out of necessity as opposed to desire.

At the same time, Troy Smith would also be in the hunt in that situation and we haven't heard thing one from Coach Harbaugh about Troy. It doesn't mean he's not interested in him but it would seem to give more legitimacy to his interest in Alex.

What this really all comes down to is how much faith the fans have in Jim Harbaugh. When he was hired people were over the moon for him. When he put together his coaching staff, I heard very few negative comments. And even if there were negative comments about specific individuals, the belief in the coaching staff overall has been pretty high. Now we could face the ultimate test of faith in Jim Harbaugh. And I can safely say it's the ultimate test because we all know the reaction Alex Smith brings to a vast majority of the fan base.

For the folks that have been hoping the 49ers and Alex Smith go there separate ways, if Jim Harbaugh decided to bring back Alex Smith of his own free will (as opposed to being forced into it by the lockout), how would that impact your opinion of Coach Harbaugh, if at all? None of these comments means Alex Smith is guaranteed to return in 2011, particularly given his treatment this past season at Candlestick. However, the possibility has officially been raised.