Let’s start at the beginning...
It was spring 2005. The Niners were on the clock. “With the first pick in the 2005 NFL draft, the 49ers">San Francisco 49ers pick Alex Smith from Utah.” The Niners got their man, and they were destined to return to their glory days as an elite NFL franchise.
Of course, it didn’t really work out like that.
It wouldn’t be fair to blame Alex for all of his shortcomings. With six different OCs in as as many years, Alex definitely had a lot to overcome. The Niners passed on last year's Super Bowl MVP (and Northern California native) Aaron Rodgers for Alex Smith—a painful subject in San Francisco. But again, to be fair, Alex hardly had the same situation Aaron did.
Whatever is to blame, whatever is the reason, Alex’s career has been tremendously disappointing thus far.
Alex turned 27 recently. He is still a relatively young guy in QB years. He has a new coaching staff in San Francisco and what looks like (as Jim Harbaugh would put it) “the perfect competitive situation” in San Francisco. Many people think he has been a victim of a sloppy organization. Others think that regardless, he has proven himself to not be a winner at the NFL level.
Assuming he re-signs with the Niners (which is almost guaranteed at this point), let’s take a look at three possible paths to his career moving forward.
Alex starts Week 1 as the Niners QB. Fans are scared but trust Harbaugh’s decision. After the first quarter fans begin getting restless, as Alex drops back for five yards, then eight more before taking a sack and fumbling on his own 3-yard line. The boos pick up where they ended last year.
After three more similar games, Harbaugh realizes you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.
Alex is benched, where he sits the rest of the year. At the demand of 49er fans everywhere, the Niners do not keep him on the team for another year. He ends up going to Cleveland, where he backs up Colt McCoy for the next three years. He retires as one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
Alex starts Week 1 as the Niners QB. He actually looks alright. It seems Harbaugh has found an offense that Alex can handle.
Colin Kaepernick shares snaps with Alex, coming in on Wildcat downs and shining. Although Alex is doing okay, it becomes apparent that CK is the real talent at QB, even to Alex.
By Week 6 CK is the starter, and Alex takes a role as backup QB behind CK. Alex and Colin develop a mutual respect and Alex helps Colin from the sideline for the remainder of his career. He retires as a respected 49er in 2015.
Alex starts Week 1 for the Niners. He looks good from early on. It appears Harbaugh and Smith are a match made in heaven.
Alex dominates the NFC west and leads the 49ers back to the playoffs in 2012. After two more attempts the following two years, Alex wins a Super Bowl. Alex and Harbaugh have brought the Niners back to where they were in the '80s and '90s.
Alex has just lived the greatest NFL comeback story of all time. He goes down in history as one of the 49ers' all-time greats—just below Steve Young and Joe Montana.
Path 1, 2 or 3: What’s most realistic? Or, is there a more realistic 4th path for Alex and the Niners?
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