Rice, the 49ers great and current ESPN analyst, believes the organization has babied the former No. 1 overall draft pick.
"I seriously think they got to take the diaper off this guy and let him play," Rice said, according to Nate Davis of USA Today. "Let him be a grown man."
Rice knows a thing or two about great quarterback play, having the privilege of catching passes from two Hall of Famers, Joe Montana and Steve Young.
While Smith will be hard-pressed to achieve the excellence set by his predecessors, there is not a better time than this season for him to enter the echelon of stardom.
Smith has a couple of key things working in his favor:
â¢ He will be playing in the same offensive scheme for consecutive seasons for the first time since entering the league in 2005.
It just remains to be seen if the 49ers take the kid gloves off and let Smith become The Man.