The 49ers should pay quarterback Alex Smith a couple of million extra for his press conference performance after he signed his three-year, $24 million deal this week. Smith dispelled any notion of a rift between himself, his team, his head coach and even his agent.
The path to Smith's latest deal, which includes $9 million guaranteed and an additional $9 million in incentives, was tortuous. Smith felt the original $24 million with $8 million guaranteed was below market. With Smith stalling, the 49ers went on a half-hearted pursuit of Peyton Manning, and that's when things got squirrely.
Smith said he was in constant contact with coach Jim Harbaugh during the entire process, but Harbaugh failed to tell Smith that he and offensive coordinator Greg Roman flew to Durham, N.C. to work out Manning. That omission reportedly angered Smith and for good reason.
A report surfaced that Smith even considered firing NFL quarterback super agent Tom Condon, who represents Smith and Manning. But Smith put all those rumors and reports to bed in a conference call with the media.
When asked about his relations with Harbaugh, Smith said, "As good as they've always been and getting better. The thing from day one when I first met coach Harbaugh is he's always been up front and always been honest with me and has continued to do that through this entire process. It's one of the reasons I love playing for him."
Yet Smith was purposely vague about the timeline of when he was informed about the 49ers workout of Manning. Smith said he didn't recall if he was informed before or after the workout.
Smith's not Mensa smart for no reason. He realized that much of the 49ers' success last year was built on an unusual team chemistry. Throughout the year, players constantly complimented coaches and coaches returned the favor. It seemed every position group was out to prove they were the most tight-knit on the team.
Much of this chemistry was based on Harbaugh's ability to communicate with players. They construed him to be much as Smith described - upfront and honest, and Smith wants to keep that perception intact.
So on one day, the 49ers retained the quarterback they wanted all along and Smith backed Harbaugh despite his subterfuge surrounding the interest in Peyton Manning.
In the process, lessons were learned. The 49ers realized if they want to be construed as being upfront, they have to be upfront. Smith learned that his contract value is not based on what other quarterbacks are getting but how the market thinks of his value. After only getting one team (Miami) interested enough to bring him in, Smith realized there was not much of a market for him.
In the end, it all seemed to work out. The 49ers wanted to keep Smith and Smith wanted to return to the team. That's exactly what happened and Smith also was able to fill in any and all rifts that emerged in the process.
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