Swallowing pride is Alex Smith's best option after 49ers' latest show of disrespect

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

So Alex Smith, are you really going to take that?


Smith, the NFL's version of Charlie Brown, has spent a career having garbage heaped upon him. From the days when former San Francisco coach Mike Nolan surrounded the quarterback with an assortment of skill-position players straight out of a thrift store, to now when Smith has reached the apex of his career, Smith is forever unappreciated and downright mistreated.

In the aftermath of drafting a quarterback (Colin Kaepernick) in the second round last year, Smith led the 49ers to the NFC championship game last season, coming within a couple of fumbled punts of getting to the Super Bowl.

For all of that great work, Smith got to watch over the past week as his team played footsy with Peyton Manning, a guy who didn't play a down this past season. Manning reportedly will sign with the Denver Broncos. The 49ers went so far as to hold a secret workout with Manning in North Carolina. Smith should have realized something was afoot when his best offer on a new contract with the 49ers was $24 million over three years.

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Will he look at the 49ers, tell them to shove it and set sail for the sublime shores of Miami, where the Dolphins reportedly offered the same deal as the Niners?

Not likely.

"Alex isn't that type of kid, never has been," said a person who knows Smith very well. "Yeah, everybody reaches a breaking point, but [he] should have reached that long ago and didn't. He's a tougher kid than you think and he wants to prove people wrong.

"He doesn't care about the money. He likes where he is. He wants to raise his family there [he and wife Elizabeth have an infant son]. He's a West Coast guy."

Smith, who rarely breaks from his banker countenance, is probably going to take this situation and just deal with the lack of respect the 49ers have continued to toss his way.

That's admirable in some ways. It shows a certain grit and mental toughness to prove yourself repeatedly.

Of course, when your alternative is playing in Miami and you're a California guy (and your former Oakland Raiders cheerleader wife is a Californian), it's not like there's really a choice. Just ask Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark.

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The 49ers have some making up to do with Smith. Maybe they will bump the contract offer to $25 million or $26 million as an apology. Maybe they'll add a year to the deal. Then again, the New York Jets just did that with Mark Sanchez and the NFL let out a collective guffaw when the Jets and Sanchez tried to sell it as a sign of his leadership.

Smith and the 49ers have a marriage that needs serious work. There are only so many times a relationship can take that kind of tension before it's over. But there is some spark left, as Smith showed during the playoffs when he compiled a quarterback rating of 101 (five TD passes, zero interceptions and a dramatic 28-yard scoring run were the highlights). There is also a lot of belief that Smith can improve after coming off his first season with coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman amid a lockout-shortened year.

Working in a run-heavy offense that didn't have great wide receivers, Smith had his best regular season with 17 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. As mentioned, his postseason was even better.

With the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, and a healthy Michael Crabtree, the 49ers might make passing more than about Smith desperately trying to find tight end Vernon Davis.

Smith could look at San Francisco's dalliance with Manning and ignore all the other roster moves. Then again, he can look at the Dolphins and realize that they just traded their best receiver (Brandon Marshall).

Ultimately, he and Harbaugh may need a good meeting to go through everything. At the end of it, Harbaugh will look at Smith and say, "It was Peyton Manning, what do you want me to say?"

Smith will bow his head, swallow his pride a little and say, "I get it."

Then he'll go out to the practice field.

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