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Long booed by his home fans at Candlestick Park, Smith threw for 3,150 yards and 17 touchdowns with only five interceptions last year as San Francisco went 13-3 to win its first division title since 2002. That was a remarkable turnaround under first-year coach and 15-year NFL quarterback Harbaugh _ the NFL coach of the year _ who declared his confidence in Smith as a winner from Day 1 when hired away from Stanford in January 2011.

San Francisco went 6-2 on the road and won four of those games in comeback fashion _ and Smith rallied his team from behind five times in all, not to mention a 36-32 victory against the favored Saints in the NFC divisional playoffs. Smith completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Davis with 9 seconds left to seal it after Drew Brees had put his team ahead.

“I can see these guys dominating for the next decade,” Craig said. “The kind of intangibles Harbaugh brings to the table, he’s very competitive and a smart guy and players believe in him, and just look how Alex stepped up his game.”