Jerry Rice thinks it’s time for Alex Smith’s diaper to come off

I understand if you find that headline a little off-putting. I apologize, but blame Jerry Rice, not me. That's the imagery he chose in making the point that the 49ers should give quarterback Alex Smith more responsibility and freedom to do his thing. Via The Huddle:

"I seriously think they got to take the diaper off this guy and let him play," said Rice on ESPN's 'Audibles.' "Let him be a grown man."

It's a strange metaphor, and to me, even a strange sentiment. Alex Smith is coming off the best season of his career by far — by really far — and it came while he was being a "caretaker" or a "game manager" or whatever you want to call it. That worked for him, and that worked for the 49ers. A record of 13-3 is still pretty good, right?

However you want to characterize Smith's performance last season — caretaking, diaper-wearing, or just solid quarterbacking — I'd just want to see more of it.

The 49ers added Randy Moss and Mario Manningham to the receiving corps in the offseason, too. Add them to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, and why not just adopt an attitude of letting those guys make the plays? What Smith did last year worked. And it will work even better this year, with Moss stretching the field and giving everyone else more room to get open and YAC it up.

This isn't the same as saying that the 49ers should limit Alex Smith or handcuff him in any way. I'm not saying he can't go out there and wing it. But why not let him exist in the comfort zone that it took him six years to find? He just got there. Right now isn't the time to ask him to morph into John Elway.

So let's leave that diaper on. I find that that's the best policy with most people you encounter on a daily basis.