Around the NFC West: Alex Smith's appeal

The San Francisco 49ers' decision to re-sign quarterback Alex Smith heading into the 2011 season made sense for a lot of reasons.

It was not a slam dunk, however.

New coach Jim Harbaugh needed to know a few things about Smith first. The more he learned, the more he knew Smith could fit for at least one season, and possibly more.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee revisits what drew Harbaugh to Smith when the team was deciding how to proceed at the position one year ago. Harbaugh: "I wanted to get to know him. I had never met him. I was just kind of looking in through the keyhole. But I guess the things that I wanted to know, if you boiled it down to one thing, was, did he want to start? Did he want be in the fire? Or did he want to wear the ball cap backward and backup somewhere? And I really felt that he had the competitive drive, the (desire) to prove himself, him wanting to do it here. That's the thing that probably intrigued me the most. That character of wanting to come back and do it here in San Francisco, which is pretty rare -- probably somewhere between rare and extinct. That's not just for football players. That's about anybody. ... And I thought we could really work with that character. To me that was special."

Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sizes up 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, who has 28 catches for 365 yards and three touchdowns in his past five games. Receiver Kyle Williams: "He's a beast. He's a playmaker, bottom line. He's one of the guys that will go up and make the tough catch, he's tough over the middle, and he's a tough out when it comes to bringing him down. I think he's got it all. I put him up against any of the receivers in the league. I can attest to just how hard this man works every single day, and the people of San Francisco really need to appreciate that. There are no off days with him and there haven't been since he's been here. He needs to be considered one of those No.1 receivers because he is. He's a beast, and he's going to continue to be."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says very little of substance happened Thursday on the Jeff Fisher front. Thomas: "The Rams' tug-of-war of with Miami could be reaching epic proportions, because among that speculation was a report that Miami owner Stephen Ross was offering Fisher in the neighborhood of $8 million a year on a multi-year deal to become the next coach of the Dolphins. As staggering as that might sound, Fisher was scheduled to make about $6.5 million a year in 2011 as Tennessee Titans head coach, so it might simply be the cost of doing business to land the top name in this year's NFL coaching carousel. And wherever Fisher lands, that paycheck may include a fancy title -- such as executive vice president -- that includes final say on personnel. It remains to be seen if Rams owner Stan Kroenke is willing to reach that deeply into his deep pockets, particularly if it's a deal beyond five years in length."

Also from Thomas: The Rams and Dolphins have not made contract offers to Fisher, but all parties have a good feel for what it would take to get a deal done. Noted: The Rams have said they are awaiting Fisher's decision, which means there has been an offer, if not specifically a contract offer. As top executive Kevin Demoff put it on the Rams' website: "I think it’s probably fair to say that if he were excited about coming here, we'd be excited to have him. Obviously, there are a lot of things to work through on both sides. You never know how these things are going to turn out, but he’s obviously an impressive coach with an impressive resume and we are excited about what we’ve heard so far."

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune indulges interest in Matt Flynn as a quarterback prospect for the Seattle Seahawks this offseason. McGrath: "If the headline for this column were 'Hawks' Carroll Convinced Spaceship From Mars Landed On His Front Yard,' I suspect Seahawks fans would say to themselves: 'A Martian Spaceship? Hmmm. That’s kinda weird. But what about the chances of acquiring Matt Flynn?' The sports talk shows on Seattle radio stations are in an all-Flynn, all-the-time mode. This has its benefits -- every 10 minutes devoted to Flynn means there’s 10 fewer minutes to devote to Tebow -- but the discussion is typically slowed by a roundabout at every intersection. The callers have no clue on whether Flynn is a long-term solution. Nor do the hosts."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic pays tribute to longtime Cardinals coach and personnel man Jim Stanley, who passed away from cancer at age 77. Somers: "Stanley wasn't necessarily quiet, but he didn't raise his voice much, either. He didn't seek attention, but if you asked for his opinion, he gave it. He was an excellent technique coach and an astute judge of talent. He could tell more about a player in 10 minutes of watching video that many could tell from watching 10 games. The Cardinals reaped the benefits of that for more than a decade. Stanley was a successful head coach before coming to the NFL. He won at Oklahoma State and he won in the USFL coaching the Michigan Panthers. I remember him telling me once about a speech he gave to one of his Panthers teams at the beginning of practice one season. I wish I had written it down word for word because it was great advice for anyone playing professional sports. The core of the message was this: 'As players, you should always remember we're constantly trying to find someone better than you. We're always trying to replace you. And the owner, he's always looking for a coach who is better than me. No one is irreplaceable.' "