NFL Free Agency: Alex Smith Is the Best Option for San Francisco 49ers

Jon SiddowayCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22:  Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during warm ups against the New York Giants during the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park on January 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Peyton Manning bandwagon to San Francisco is approaching full capacity, yet I'm standing on the side of the road refusing to hop on. And I'm content.


Because Alex Smith is the best option at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

Not the four-time MVP with just as many neck surgeries. Not the 35-year-old (36 next week) who sat out the entire 2011 season while Smith helped lead the 49ers to the doorstep of a Super Bowl appearance.  

So, why all the fuss surrounding the possibility of Manning?

The addition, should it happen, apparently makes the team instant favorites to lift the Lombardi Trophy. Wait a second, we're not talking about an instant rice recipe. The 49ers are trying to build a championship football team and multiple ingredients other than just water are needed. Don't be so quick to forget that Manning only won a single Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts despite being an annual favorite. It took several visits and failures for him to finally get over the hump and win the big game. 

So, why would anyone think Manning, known to be a creature of habit, can do it with a new team, new coach and new offense? 

Smith, on the other hand, is familiar with the system and core group of returning players. He is fresh off a breakout season and has established chemistry with Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Most importantly, Smith embodies what head coach Jim Harbaugh looks for in a starting quarterback: intelligence, toughness and the athleticism to escape the pocket and make plays with his feet when needed (and it's frequently needed; the 49ers led the league last season with 44 sacks surrendered).

Josh Johnson fit the mold at San Diego, Andrew Luck at Stanford and Colin Kaepernick, who Harbaugh moved up in the draft to select, does as well. Manning, though, has two anchors for feet.

What happens when he takes a big hit, or even a few big hits? How will his neck hold up?

While Smith's career stats flop in comparison to Manning's, he does win the oh-so important battle of age at 27 years old. Only two quarterbacks 36 or older have won a Super Bowl in the past 30 years.

Smith finally has two things that have evaded him his entire career: confidence and continuity. The latter, however, now appears as slippery as ever.

With Peyton Manning's decision coming Monday or Tuesday, 49ers fans should hope the bandwagon heads to a different city outside of San Francisco. 


Because Alex Smith is the best option.