You have to feel for Alex Smith. It’s startling to consider how a pair of botched plays can potentially impact the course of a player’s career, especially since he wasn’t on the field for either of them.
With news that the 49ers are in hot pursuit of Peyton Manning, it’s growing increasingly likely that Smith could be the odd man out in San Francisco. Smith traveled to Miami Sunday where he spent over 5½-hours meeting with the team. All reports indicate that the two sides are discussing a multi-year deal that would be worth around $8 million per year. Of course, if Smith lands in Miami, and Manning goes with either Denver or Tennessee, San Francisco could be in quite a bind at quarterback next season, with second year Colin Kaepernick the only option on the staff.
A year ago, the thought of the 49ers jettisoning Smith would have been met with shrugged shoulders. But that was before Smith found a coach in Jim Harbaugh who understood his strengths, transforming the former first overall pick into an efficient quarterback who was two Kyle Williams mishaps away from the Super Bowl.
Imagine for a second if Williams avoids the winding punt that deflected off his knee, setting up a Giants touchdown halfway through the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game. It’s reasonable to assume that Williams’ overtime fumble never occurs. All of a sudden, the 49ers are put into a favorable Super Bowl matchup with New England, a team that faltered regularly against physical defenses like San Francisco’s.
Let’s say the 49ers win Super Bowl XLVI. Ring-bearing quarterbacks are placed on a pedestal in NFL circles, almost to a fault. It’s the main reason that Dan Marino is never included in conversations about the best of all time.
So what if First Round Bust Alex Smith became Super Bowl Winner Alex Smith?
For starters, he wouldn’t be wondering where he’s going to play in 2012. The 49ers surely would have locked him into a long-term deal by now, hoping that Smith is the still-developing leader of the team’s next dynasty.
Instead, with reports surfacing that San Francisco secretly worked out Manning last week, Smith’s future is almost as uncertain as it was prior to last year.
As a 49ers fan, I have sympathy for Smith. We saw him struggle for six years prior to last year’s breakout campaign. It was like watching your dyslexic son finish second in the school spelling bee. You’re relieved to see him grow and you’re excited about what’s to come.
But this is Peyton Manning. And professional football is a business. As unfair as it may be, sometimes, as they say, that’s just the way the ball bounces.
As Smith said when speaking with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “I never thought a year ago (Peyton) Manning would be a free agent. I’m never surprised by anything.”
It is possible that the Smith and Miami agree to terms in the next 48 hours, which would create an interesting scenario for the 49ers if Smith moves on and they miss out on Manning.