Jim Harbaugh and Jed York both left the door open last week for Alex Smith to return to the club this coming year. It’s possible they did this to ensure that the 49er blog world has something to argue about this off season, while Harbaugh quietly goes about his business. Or it could just be the gentlemanly thing to say.
The mere thought of this occurring, though, set off a frenzy of pro and con Alex sentiments. Say what you will about Smith’s play on the field, but his ability to generate fan commentary cannot be challenged. He is the king of the blog hits arena. Nobody else is even close.
You won’t learn anything new in the rekindling of this controversy. It’s all been said a thousand times over, a Groundhog Day phenomenon. But wherever people are gathered together, lips must open and babble must burst forth abundantly. Who cares if it’s the same babble as yesterday? The farmers have been talking about the weather for thousands of years, haven’t they?
This is a topic that won’t go away until Smith signs with another team, or the Niners sign a replacement. It won’t go away because the 49ers currently have only one QB, David Carr, under contract. Of the available Free Agent QBs, guess who is considered the best one available? If you guessed Troy Smith, you have erred in your Smithiness. The 2011 draft will provide the Niners with some sort of more or less project QB, but certainly not an instant starter.
So, there is only the QB via trade scenario from whence to pluck the team’s 2011 starting QB. Unfortunately, that market will not be opened until the new CBA is signed, which may not occur until next September. If the CBA impasse does last that long, the 49ers, by default, will be starting Carr this coming year.
The question then becomes, whom would you rather start? Carr or Alex?
If the CBA is signed in a timely manner, there are four QBs that are now routinely tossed around that many fans think would be an upgrade if we traded for them: Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton, and Kevin Kolb. The chief attribute of these four QBs is that they are not named Alex Smith. Otherwise, none of them clearly represent much of an upgrade. But they would cost us valuable draft picks.
A fifth QB has not been mentioned much, but is probably our best shot. This QB has played for Harbaugh and would know his offense from Day One. His name is Josh Johnson, currently the second string QB in Tampa Bay. Mike Martz brought in J. T. O’Sullivan for this immediate value reason, and Johnson has a much better track record than O’Sullivan. In fact, Johnson was pretty damn good in college, under Harbaugh’s tutelage, and has not soiled his drawers in the pros, either.
Whether Tampa would trade him or not, is unknown. If they are willing, I expect Harbaugh to go after him. If they are not, the Alex Smith door not only will remain open, it makes sense for it to be kept ajar.