The overwhelming majority of San Francisco 49ers fans are sick of seeing the so far under-achieving Alex Smith under center at the beginning of every year, but it’s a sight they will see for at least one more season — as they should.
“It’s well documented, on record, that we very much want Alex Smith to be a 49er next year,” new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told NFL Total Access host Fran Charles on Tuesday. “He really is a 49er in my mind, and hopefully in his mind he is a 49er. We look forward to him competing for that starting quarterback position next year.”
Smith has also expressed his desire to return to San Francisco recently to CSNBayArea.com’s Mindi Bach, but according to Bach asked not to be quoted in the story.
So unless another team makes Smith an offer he simply cannot refuse, he will probably get at least one more season to be the 49ers’ starting quarterback. It’s going to drive most of San Francisco insane, but it really is the right call for the team, Harbaugh, and Smith.
Most rookie head coaches these days are quick to draft a rookie quarterback, marry him (so to speak), and ride it out for better or for worse. Mike Smith did it with Matt Ryan in Atlanta, Jim’s brother Jon did it with Joe Flacco in Baltimore, Ron Rivera seems ready to do the same with Cam Newton in Carolina, and so on.
But as a former NFL quarterback, Harbaugh likely sees something in Smith that past coaches did not. Harbaugh was always an over-achiever during his days in the NFL and didn’t have the physical skills Smith clearly possesses, so if he can just teach Smith how to be a winner and minimize mistakes, there is still a chance his career can be saved.
Smith has always shown the potential and flashes of being a franchise quarterback, but no one can succeed with six different offensive coordinators in as many years. If anyone can tap into Smith’s potential, it’s a guy who played the position with more success than he should have.
Add in the lengthy lockout that is almost sure to cut into significant offseason training time, including perhaps training camp, and the fact that second-round pick Colin Kaepernick has a long way to go before he’s NFL-ready and Smith becomes the 49ers’ best option by far.
My guess is Smith, once the lockout finally ends, gets a two-year deal worth somewhere in the range of $12 million, possibly up to $15 million with incentives and $5-8 million in guaranteed money. It sounds like a lot for a guy with Smith’s career numbers, but if Jake Delhomme and Kerry Collins can get $15 million over two years, then Smith is certainly worth somewhere in that area.