Forgive me for going off the range a bit. But this week Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, did some fence mending with quarterback Alex Smith. He said the Niners never tried to sign then free agent quarterback Peyton Manning and Smith was always their guy. Harbaugh was quoted as saying, “It’s silly and it’s untrue. It’s phony.” ESPN’s Adam Shefter says the Niners did indeed try to sign Eli’s brother and Manning even called Harbaugh to thank him for his time after signing with the Broncos.
We all understand Harbaugh’s motivation. Smith seemed to finally put things together last year and San Fran goes right after the first sexy name on the free market after the season ends. It’s a move that makes perfect sense. I think if I were Peyton, I would’ve signed with the Niners. Their defense would’ve been a great luxury. And I think if I were Smith, I would understand the NFL is a business.
To recount the Smith saga, he was selected with the first overall pick in 2005. Over the next several years, he endured seven different offensive coordinators and seven different offenses. He also endured a lot of bad press which called him a “bust” and a “game manager” at best. Then Harbaugh came rolling into town and Smith went toe-to-toe with Drew Brees in the playoffs, somehow coming out victorious.
So now as training camp is set to open in two short months, Harbaugh begins work to build up his quarterback again. Smith eventually signed a three-year, $24 million dollar contract which doesn’t exactly scream, “YOU are our guy!” Instead, Harbaugh will spend the next eight weeks saying it to every microphone which happens to be in his vicinity.
Make no mistake. The San Francisco 49ers are going to be in the thick of things at the end of the season. The have a great defense and they play in the NFC West. In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks went 7-9 and won the division.
As a total New York Giants homer, I believe they should win every single game and every single championship. I am always absolutely devastated when they don’t. That being said, I see the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers as the top two playoff seeds. The New Orleans Saints have too much baggage to overcome this year. And the Green Bay Packers ended the season on such a sour note last year, I think they may have trouble putting it all together consistently.
Not counting any other teams which take it to the next level such as the Detriot Lions or Atlanta Falcons, that leaves the Giants and Niners in the NFC Championship game. I expect Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith to have a great year. And all of this makes me appreciate the stability the Giants have all the more. I also wonder how Eli Manning’s career may be different if he had to endure the same challenges that Smith has had to.
I’m glad Smith is finally getting his shot. But when he travels to New York in January, I will hope for dismemberment and perhaps a minor bit of death. Nothing personal, Alex. It’s just business.