Alex Smith responds to benching
Alex Smith will be missed, and invoked, every time Colin Kaepernick is not the new and improved Michael Vick. (AP)
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We are down to the last fortnight of The Saga Of Alex Smith, Pavlov’s Quarterback, and this is a sad occasion, as he is (and is about to be was) the one 49er who could make people crazy on both sides of an argument, even more than those who could admire Jim Harbaugh or Patrick Willis, or loathe David Akers or Kyle Williams. The one 49er who was well treated and badly treated at the same time.
The one 49er who will truly be missed in the 8,710 hours in which there will not be a game being played this year.
[RELATED: Report -- 49ers have deal in place to trade Alex Smith to Chiefs]
This could be viewed as some sort of surrender by the 49ers, because Smith of course is worth gobs more than that, right? Well, no, because you're worth only what the market says you are, and even in a thin market, two picks are about the right number. And trust us, the 49ers wouldn't have agreed so quickly if they thought there was more out there.
(Frankly, I would have liked to have seen them get take three or four more picks in this draft and end up with 18, preferably sprinkled throughout the seven rounds so that they and their most psychotic fans have watch every minute of the draft with neither bathroom nor snack breaks. Hey, sue me. I’m a bastard. Says so on my business card).
But we digress.
The details of the trade aside, we will miss Smith because he created a level of reflexive chatter matched only by John Brodie’s time as quarterback in the 1960s. Brodie was a much better practitioner of the art, to be sure, but fans were always trying to give his job to someone else, whether it be Bill Kilmer, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Waters, George Mira, Lamar McHan, or at the end, Joe Reed. And Brodie’s situation is what started 49er fans on their inexorable path toward obsessing relentlessly on the quarterback issue. Smith is just a slightly less fascinating phenomenon.
[RELATED: Bay Area athletes tweet best wishes to Alex Smith]
And he will be missed, and invoked, every time Colin Kaepernick is not the new and improved Michael Vick. Or every time a 49er bitches aloud about playing time, or being reduced in rank for an inexplicable reason. Or the next time Jim Harbaugh decides to become a player’s best friend.
That last one is most interesting because it was Harbaugh’s first true mistake as a coach. He built Smith up from nothing by cleaving himself to him, all the way down to caddying for him. But when it came time to make a change, Harbaugh did what coaches do – he made it, and thereby revealed himself as the only thing he could be. The guy who is always there when he needs you, and behind you right up until the point where he needs to be behind someone else.
The mistake was not in changing to Kaepernick, you see, but in attaching himself so demonstratively to Smith before that. No player will view his proto-fatherly arms around the shoulder or effusive press conference praise in the same way ever again. It’s why most coaches, the great, good and crummy, prefer distance.
Right now, we are down to the final few days in which the 49ers can scour up extra offers to try and create a market where one does not yet fully exist, despite the reports that say Kansas City is done and sealed, for picks in this draft and the 2014 draft. So let's just say Smith is a Chief, and note that his service was not only noble in times of trouble and dignified in times of demotion, but that it also explained the 49ers in the 21st Century more than any other person. More than Harbaugh, more than Jed York, more than Steve Mariucci or even Brian Jennings.
All roads run through Alexander D. Smith, for good and ill, and that alone should earn him a nice bronze statue outside the Palais Du Jed, with the legend, “HE SERVED US BETTER THAN WE HAD THE RIGHT TO EXPECT."
And they could put it right next to Brodie’s statue. After all, the man who created our quarterback obsession and the man who codified it for a new generation should memorialized for all time. Or until the Mayans do the job they promised last year.