After listening in on Alex Smith’s I’m-back-with-the-49ers-like-nothing-happened conference call this morning, there can be no doubt: while Smith was understandably bothered by the 49ers’ pursuit of Peyton Manning, the emotions/feelings angle is totally played out.
Smith may not be an All-Pro quarterback, but he’s adept at navigating the media minefield. He wasn’t about to complain about his bosses (Jim Harbaugh, Trent Baalke and/or Jed York) or paint himself as a victim. While Smith was in a bit of a tough spot for a week or so as the Manning rumors picked up momentum, he’s in as good a position as any starting quarterback in the NFL…
1. Winning team
2. Great coaching
3. Strong offensive line
4. Brilliant defense
5. Organizational stability
6. New and improved receivers
7. Good money, but not enough to cause undue pressure (i.e. the “Zito effect”)
8. Backed by his teammates (Vernon Davis and Frank Gore, in particular)
9. April’s Draft will be tailored to fitting a team around him, not finding his potential replacement
10. Five-plus months to prepare for next season
Compare Smith’s situation with Drew Brees, whose whole career has been turned upside-down by the bounty punishments levied on New Orleans today. His coach is gone and his team (one of the league’s best over the past three years, if not the best) is damaged, perhaps beyond repair. His contract situation remains unsettled, and this is the guy who just broke the single-season yardage record.
Smith’s comparatively lucky, and he knows it. Here are some highlights from a conference call that took place around 11:30 today after the 49ers announced he’d be back on a 3-year deal.
Wait! First, let’s take a look at York, who made a statement of his own about a half hour before the call. He may be the most entertaining Twitter-owner in the league, behind Jim Irsay.
All that tweet needed was a sad-face emoticon. You know he thought about it.
Okay, now onto the call:
— Most of the early questions focused on how Smith feels about returning and the 49ers’ overtures to a certain quarterback. “Not offended at all,” said Smith. “I would have relished the opportunity to compete with Peyton Manning.”
— One amusing part of the call were reporters stepping over each other to ask questions. Matt Maiocco was like a beat-writing version of Justin Smith, bull-rushing opposing reporters and tossing them aside like overwhelmed offensive tackles.
— “Money wasn’t an issue … money’s great for security but I’m not a guy who has a bunch of flashy cars,” Smith said. After the call, Smith hopped on his hoverboard and soared to Los Gatos.
— When Smith was seen in first class on a redeye to Miami, and then took part in a 5 1/2-hour* meeting with the Dolphins, everyone freaked out. Is Alex upset? Will he ever trust Jim Harbaugh again? The answer: “It’s free agency, it’s the NFL, I went down (to Miami) but the plan all along was to come back here.”
*Side note: one of my favorite things from the past week was how whoever was stalking the Dolphins’ complex felt the need to be super precise in terms of the time, like it makes a difference whether Smith was in there for 5 or 6 hours.
— Someone asked Smith about Randy Moss, and Smith spoke of Moss’ unique “toolset” and said, “When your last name can become a verb … you got ‘Mossed’ as wide receivers say…” Depending on a player’s extracurricular activities, getting “mossed” could mean something completely different than what Alex is thinking, while still referring to Randy Moss.
— “I feel like I’ve been through way worse than this,” said Smith, who refrained from using the words “Nolan,” “Singletary,” and “Raye.” Yeah, I’m recycling material. It’s been a long week.
— In a response to David Fucillo‘s question on what Smith plans on working on during the off-season, Smith responded, “Passing game’s the emphasis, it’s time to really take it to the next level.” Option No. 2 for Smith: “Not caddying.” (He didn’t actually say that.)