Alex Smith finally came limping back to Santa Clara this afternoon – beaten down, tuck-tailed and egg-faced. Matt Maiocco reported that Alex and Jim Harbaugh have been talking, and now that the Dolphins have signed David Garrard, Alex’s leverage in contract negotiations is all but gone.
Other than the man who is about to be the next topic du jour, Tim Tebow, Smith appears to be the biggest loser in this Peyton Manning fiasco. The Titans still have their quarterbacks in Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker. The Broncos got their man. The Dolphins are, well, the Dolphins, and the 49ers now occupy the driver’s seat in their contract talks with Alex. Perhaps he could find a contract as a back-up quarterback, but he is looking for more money than Matt Flynn received – most likely along the lines of Mark Sanchez’s contract, and no team is interested in Smith at that price. The 49ers aren’t going to budge, especially now that Smith is out of options.
The 49er-Smith Rift
Things have certainly soured between the 49ers and Smith. It has been reported that Alex Smith is upset with the 49ers – that it wasn’t about length of the deal or price, but loyalty and respect. One can’t help but feel for Smith – he watched a beautiful relationship grow with his coach after years of mismanagement. He formed a bond with Harbaugh that was almost paternal; he spent time with Harbaugh, he accepted an award for Harbaugh. He had a great 2011 season and believed he should be awarded as such.
The 49ers put a contract out on the table early for Smith. Perhaps it wasn’t fair value in Smith’s eyes, but it WAS correct market value. If he wanted to base his worth on the contracts given to Matt Flynn and Mark Sanchez then he was destined for disappointment. The 49ers are not in the business of overpaying for risks. They set a price on a player and they never waiver. Alex has spent enough time around Trent Baalke to know that by now.
His gamble, flirting with the Dolphins, blew up in his face in disastrous fashion now that David Garrard signed with Miami. At this point it’s clear that he will accept the deal that the 49ers had out for him all along. All of this trouble and all of the embarrassment is essentially of his own making – had he accepted the 49ers offer originally, the 49ers would not have existed in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.
Show me the money
I don’t think, however, that Alex Smith was the sole proprietor of this stalemate gone wrong: This has Smith’s agent, Tom Condon, written all over it. You can’t blame Condon for trying to milk his client’s worth for an extra couple pennies – Alex Smith did have a great season in 2011. But six prior seasons of mediocrity show that Alex still has much to prove if he wants to get paid elite quarterback money.
It isn’t surprising to see that other teams found very little value in Alex. Smith needs a special kind of coach, a special kind of attention and an extended learning curve in order to have a chance at excelling. His history has proven that his confidence is fragile, and though he’s highly intelligent, he’s not the fastest learner. No team in the league would have been willing to shell out more than what the 49ers were offering for a quarterback like Smith. Condon should have known as much and kept his client’s best interests in mind before he went off trying to hustle him for an extra buck.
Of course it’s human nature for Alex to be dejected by this whole fiasco. He can’t just unfeel the betrayal that he’s experienced, but it’s the National Football League – it’s a cutthroat business where there’s almost always something better out there. He has to move past his pride and get on board with the 49ers. His best chance to win is San Francisco – this is where he belongs. The hope will be that this puts a chip on his shoulder. Perhaps he will come out stronger in 2012 and he will prove his worth. Perhaps he can show that he’s worth his salt. Perhaps he can show that he’s worth a bigger deal.
In the meantime, Alex has a self-inflicted mess to clean up. He has a contract to sign and it’s time to make that happen. But after that’s done, there’s still one thing left for Smith to do before he gets back to playing football – he has an agent that needs to be fired.