2011: Jim Harbaugh and the Game Manager Season
January 11, 2011: 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh as their new head coach. It was widely expected the 49ers would move on from Smith after another dismal season. But with Harbaugh as former quarterback and his track record of developing QB’s, he publically said he wanted Smith to return and he was his “guy”. Despite the NFL lockout and with no contract, Smith organized off-season workouts with players to help learn Harbaugh’s new offense.
July 26, 2011: Smith signed a one-year, $5 million deal to stay in San Francisco.
September 2, 2011: Not that there was any doubt; Smith was named the starting quarterback heading into the regular season.
October 2, 2011: Smith had his first big game in Harbaugh’s offensive system against the Eagles in Week 4. Down 23-3, Smith rallied the 49ers to a 24-23 victory as he completed 9-of-9 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter. It would go down as Smith’s biggest comeback victory with the 49ers.
October 16, 2011: The game against the Detroit Loins is more known for Handshake Gate, than what actually happened on the field. Smith had his third come-from-behind road victory of the season, beating the Lions, 25-19.
November 13, 2011: Smith was instrumental in the teams, 27-20, home win over the New York Giants. Frank Gore was held to zero yards before he left the game with an injury, so the offense rested on his Smith’s shoulders. He completed 19-of-30 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown.
Final stats for 2011: 16 starts (13-3), 3,144 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 61.3 completion percentage, 90.7 QB rating and 44 sacks. He finished the season with five come-from-behind victories, with four coming on the road. The 49ers won the NFC West for the first time since 2002.