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Mr. Manning vs. Mr. Smith
Amidst the coming of Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on Sunday is a bit of a controversy brewing here in San Francisco and once again it involves Alex Smith. For any San Francisco 49ers fan who has been breathing for the last seven seasons, this is nothing new. What is new, however, is the name attached as a possible suitor. Instead of names such as J.T. O'Sullivan, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, Cody Pickett, Chris Weinke, Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Troy Smith, David Carr, and oh yes, even Nate Davis was getting a call from a fan or two, it is a name that comes with stature. It is a name that comes with power. It is a name that is synonymous with winning. It is a name that needs only to retire and wait five years to be immortalized in Canton.
It is Peyton Manning.
If you have paid any attention whatsoever to the goings on in Indianapolis (that aren't Super Bowl related), Peyton Manning is headed out the door. While his injury and subsequent questions surrounding said injury definitely play a factor in this decision, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the firings of GM Bill Polian (and his son), as well as the termination of head coach Jim Caldwell. For a person like Peyton Manning who operates on familiarity and could probably walk blindfolded through the Colts facility with the lights off and still be able to tell you where he is and who is in the building based on the way the wind is blowing, this has to be devastating. By his own public comments, he speaks of "barely recognizes anyone." That in and of itself leads you to believe that his days with the horeshoe on the side of his helmet may be coming to an end. Somehow, through all that has transpired in Indianapolis, the talk of where he may end up has centered around San Francisco. Ironically, if this were any other year, there would be no question that the 49ers should take a chance on him. It wouldn't matter if he were 68-years-old with his throwing arm amputated. He's got to be better than Alex Smith, right?
As Lee Corso of ESPN College Gameday would say, "Not so fast, my friend." Alex Smith, through all of his trials and tribulations, emerged as much more than a "bust." Not only did he prove himself to be leader (it was he who made sure anyone who wanted to practice was able to do so during the lockout), he led the team to a 13-3 record this season. While many may point to Frank Gore or the defense for the wins this season, those same people absolutely cannot point to Alex Smith for any of the three losses. That is something that could not be said very often in any of the years gone by. Much has been made about the defencies on third down, and it is a real concern, but even the future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning wouldn't be able to do much when all you have is Vernon Davis to throw to. Far be it from me to give the New York Giants credit for anything, but they did an outstanding job of renaming Michael Crabtree "WHO?", and stopping whatever other receivers that were out there from becoming a factor. That's what a great defense does. That's what the 49ers do. This time it was done to them. Oh well...it happens!!
But I digress...
Alex Smith proved himself over and over again this season, doing what many of his own fans thought he couldn't, but he became a man in the playoffs against the Saints. As can be confirmed by the people around me during the last minute of that game, I had every bit of confidence in the world that the 49ers would score a touchdown and win that game, but I don't know many others who did. You see, I have been with Alex Smith from the beginning. I have seen glimpses of what he could do when an offensive guy like Norv Turner was the offensive coordinator and I was anxious to see what he would do under a guy who had an offensive mind and would let him be the kind of quarterback he is. That guy is Jim Harbaugh. Don't get me wrong, I am not ready to anoint Alex Smith as the next great quarterback in the history of the San Francisco 49ers, and if he were sitting next to me, I don't believe for a second he would want me to say that, but I do believe he has earned the right to lead us into the future. There are many teams in the NFL who have pressing quarterback issues and for the first time since 2005, we are not one of those teams. Let us not rest on our laurels and be satisfied with the season he just had, but let us not fix what isn't broke. We have clamored for years for Alex Smith to be beheaded, kidnapped, injured, dumped, traded, forgotten about, etc., but rain or shine he showed up to work and tried. This year he answered all critics and more with his consistently good play.
Selfishly, it would be an absolute dream to see Peyton Manning a 49ers uniform. He's like that brand new, fully loaded truck. Alex Smith is a bike compared to that. But that doesn't mean he'll produce a Super Bowl, and what good is that new truck if you can't drive it all the time and you have to spend a lot of money on upkeep? Moreover, if you ask anyone who is from/and or resides in the City by the Bay, they'll tell you one thing: A bike can get you around just as good in these parts because they don't use up gas and you don't have to find a parking space for them.
With that said, I'll take the bike with the (No.) 11" rims.