When the 49ers were one of the three main teams competing for the heart and mind of Peyton Manning, there were a few degrees of hope that people felt. In most cases, where you sat depended more on what you thought of Alex Smith than what you thought of Manning.
These people believed that Manning is the best quarterback in NFL history, the neck surgeries wouldn’t cause long-term effects and were just a normal product of quarterbacking like a beast and starring in hilarious commercials, and MY GOD DID YOU SEE HIM CALL HIS OWN PLAYS? Look him, picking up his foot in the shotgun and dropping it to the turf to send a guy in motion, JUST LIKE A REAL COLT!
These people wanted San Francisco to sign Manning regardless of what it took, short of changing the 49ers’ uniform colors to blue and white.
2. Let’s turn up the volume a little
These are the people who were really happy about Smith after the Saints game, to the point where they had a recording of Ted Robinson screaming, “Never doubt Alex Smith again” as their ringtones … for a week. These people took the NFC Championship Game loss extremely hard, deciding then and there that the 49ers were perhaps not a perfect team in 2011, but with a truly elite quarterback ring No. 6 would’ve been theirs.
This group wasn’t ready to flip out on the 49ers if they lost out on the Manning sweepstakes, but they reserved the right to complain loudly the next time Smith threw a 6-yard pass on 3rd-and-7.
3. Our Harbaugh, soon in Canton, hallowed be thy name
These are the people who were just along for the ride. If Jim Harbaugh thought Manning was the answer and Jed York gave the go-ahead, that’s cool. Oh, Harbaugh wasn’t into Manning and wants Josh Johnson to be the new starter? Well, far be it from us to question Harbaugh!
There were people (like me) who steeled themselves for a Manningless future for the 49ers. However, to say 99% of 49ers fans (and the media people covering the team as well, if we’re being totally honest) wouldn’t have freaked out with joy if the 49ers had signed Manning would be ludicrous. People would’ve figured there had to be a reason why the savior (Harbaugh) and Greg Roman flew back east to watch Manning throw, then convinced the Yorks to spend about a fifth of their salary cap on one player.
But we all know what happened. Denver provided what Manning wanted, which was presumably a combination of guaranteed money, input on offensive schemes and personnel moves, and a division as far from his younger brother’s New York Giants as possible. The 49ers signed Smith to a very cap-friendly deal, pretended they never wanted Manning in the first place and embarked on the first full offseason for the team with Harbaugh and his staff.
Small Sample Size Theater
Which brings us to now. Both Manning and Smith have two games under their belt. Not much, but enough to make some comparisons. In terms of the so-called “eye test,” the 49ers are clearly in the lead with their, err, decision to keep Smith. Smith is younger, faster, throws a better ball these days and hasn’t had his neck operated on multiple times.
On the other hand, Manning is a lot richer and significantly more famous than Smith. Manning also throws balls so wobbly these days that food snobs want to force feed his passes via a funnel and tube so they can enjoy scarfing down their buttery livers on top of filet mignon.
Through two games, the numbers say this:
After both quarterbacks had almost identical numbers in Week 1, Manning struggled on Monday Night Football against the Falcons with three interceptions. Smith played just as well against Detroit as he did in Lambeau, and would’ve had even better numbers had the 49ers not dropped five passes (according to PFF). Manning had no one to blame but himself for his shoddy performance, as the Broncos only dropped two passes against Atlanta.
We’ll be comparing both quarterbacks’ numbers all year, so stay tuned…
- Y/A: Passing yards per attempt
- RY: Rushing yards
- RY/A: Rushing yards per attempt
- PFF: Overall rating (Pro Football Focus)
- DVOA: Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. This number represents value, per play, over an average quarterback in the same game situations. The more positive the DVOA rating, the better the player’s performance. (Football Outsiders)
- QBRtg: Traditional QB Rating