It was quiet. TOO quiet.
No one else has used that line before, right? Sweet, I’m rolling with it.
Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers have been on their way to a new contract for days now. Yep, totally going to happen. Just waiting for him to sign the dotted line. Why the delay? Don’t worry about it kid, just let the grownups negotiate. Smith was Jim Harbaugh’s caddy, for Montana’s sake. And the golfer/caddy bond is one that can never be broken.
/Tiger Woods fist pump
Now the 49ers’ search for a starting quarterback in 2012 has taken a turn that nobody expected … but one everyone at least considered, either consciously or subconsciously.
It only makes sense. Now that Monta “Monte” Ellis is gone, the Bay Area needed a guy whose first name everyone can misspell on Twitter.
After the best year of his pro career, now it’s Smith who’s got “Manning Face.”
1. Did Smith piss off the 49ers by not being a good soldier and taking the first respectable contract offer?
2. Did the 49ers purposely lowball Smith, figuring if he didn’t sign they always had the Manning option? Not that Manning would run the option for the Niners, since he runs slower than Bengie Molina on Benadryl, but you probably get what I mean. No need to go into Jay Leno-mode and explain everything.
3. Are Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke (oh, those sneaky bastards) feigning interest in Manning in order to keep Smith’s cap number lower?
4. Were Harbaugh and Baalke feigning interest in keeping Smith as their “QB of the future” this whole time?
While Smith has to be hurt, annoyed, angry, and downright fatigued with the 49ers organization at this point, four people are euphoric right now (and that’s not counting 49ers fans who don’t trust Smith, or Bay Area sports talk hosts — who’ve been calling for Manning for weeks now because he’ll increase ratings and eliminate the need for show-prep).
Peyton Manning: Obviously he watched the Niners closely during the NFC Championship Game. While he surely rooted for his brother, he also probably cringed every time Smith threw a ground ball where shortstop used to be, back when the San Francisco Giants called Candlestick home. The Broncos are decent, but they don’t have the 49ers’ defense (does anyone?), and then Manning would have to replace a fan favorite in Tim Tebow. Playing in Tennessee would be like Matthew McConaughey returning to campus in Dazed and Confused, so they’re still probably the leaders in this sweepstakes — but the Niners give Manning extra negotiating power he has to appreciate, now that everyone knows he isn’t going to Miami or Arizona.
Colin Kaepernick: Let’s see, he can either wait behind a guy who’s in his late 20s and on the rise, or learn from the most brilliant offensive mind among active NFL players, a guy who’s in the twilight of a career that could end at any time if he sleeps on the wrong pillow. The difference between Smith and Manning is the difference between Kaepernick playing for the 49ers in a year or two or trying to prove he isn’t a career backup somewhere else.
Vernon Davis: While we know the 49ers haven’t had a wide receiver as talented as Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne since Terrell Owens wore braces, Manning made Dallas Clark a star. Davis has a solid relationship with Smith, and Davis blew up in the playoffs with Smith under center. But imagine what would be able to do with Manning.
Michael Crabtree: Ditto, and he doesn’t even work well with Smith.
Not that anyone cares — but while Manning would create a waterfall of page views and story topics, I’d be a little bummed if Smith was tossed aside after he finally showed glimpses of why he was chosen No. 1 overall. He’s a nice guy, almost too nice, and if the 49ers go with Manning you know he’ll say the right things threw clenched teeth, kind of like Steve Young after Joe Montana led the Chiefs to that win over the 49ers back in 1994.
Smith may still rejoin the team. Who knows, maybe Manning wanted to go to Tennessee all along, or John Elway’s career numbers will trump whatever Harbaugh has to say in his recruiting pitch. CSN’s Mindy Bach is reporting that the 49ers’ chance of signing Manning is slim, and a report out of Denver says Manning wants his new contract to match his old one: five years, $90 million and $61.8 million over the first two years. Yikes.
However, nobody thought the 49ers would nab Harbaugh either. If Smith was truly the 49ers’ “guy,” don’t you think they’d have signed him by now? If you feel like underestimating the 49ers when they’re showing interest like this, be prepared for Jed York and Trent Baalke to prove you wrong..