The past week has showed us that predicting Trent Baalke’s game plans is not a good way to make a living. He fooled everyone last year and he’s done it again this year. We expected big news last year, and he stayed on the back pages and shopped the bargains. Okay. That worked. So, we expected he would do that again this year. Nope. Instead he’s a regular front page headliner. And all without ever having his name surface anywhere.
The man knows how to stay low and close a deal, that’s for sure. Last year, he signed Donte Whitner off an airplane going elsewhere. This year, he signed Mario Manningham while the WR was visiting the Rams. If it’s the eleventh hour, watch your Baalke.
It looks like the expected upgrade at the wide receiver position has been accomplished. Something old (Randy Moss) and something new (Manningham). It’s tempting to say, yeah, but we lost Josh Morgan. Not hugely tempting, I guess, but a little. In fact, we lost Josh last year in October to IR. The WR crew we were upgrading, the one that stunk in the playoffs, didn’t have him in it.
Of course, the big headline maker is the pursuit of Peyton Manning. This little gem has set the 49er fan base on fire. The Niners have turned into drama central. Every day, a new twist. And nobody knows one damn piece of solid information. A Baalke trademark.
But Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke sold out the locker room in this affair, turning “blue collar guys” and “mighty men” into sham slogans with a one year shelf life. They did it by selling out last year’s hero like he was, well, a Nobody. That doesn’t bother the Smith Haters, who are looking for instant gratification of any kind, something to get the egg off their faces that Smith splashed on last year, but there are fifty guys in the locker room who most definitely are taking notice.
Maybe running a ruthless operation where your word means nothing will work, but if the 49ers don’t win the Super Bowl next year, then it failed. There’s no other way to see it. If the chants against Alex Smith have diluted down to “He’ll never win a SB” then the same criterion must be applied to Peyton Manning — and more so. Anything less than a Lombardi Trophy next year will be unacceptable.
Joe Montana was a great teammate. One of the guys. So is Smith. Manning is not. He’a a corporation. He’s better than you … nobodies.
Manning was a fabulous regular season quarterback, maybe the best ever, but his postseason record reads Choker. He’s 9-10 in the playoffs and is more famous for throwing the killing interception than making that fourth quarter winning drive with the season on the line. He had eleven shots to win a Super Bowl and came away with the prize only once. And in that winning year, 2006, he put up 3 TDs, 7 INTs, and a 70.5 QBR as his playoff contribution. IOW, the team won in spite of his poor performance.
This is not an “I Love Alex” or “I Hate Manning” post. It’s an “Et tu, Brute?” post. And it says here that Harbaugh has revealed himself to be a liar and a phony. Either that, or we’ve just seen the first GM/HC philosophical rift. And whether we get Manning or not, the damage is done and can’t be reversed. Who’s Got It Better has instantly become Watch Your Back, Baby. It’s one thing to support your QB at all costs until you find a better one, but quite another to pal around Pebble Beach like true friends in front of the whole world a month before sticking a knife between his shoulder blades.
The “we’re a family” motif just got flushed down the toilet. Maybe that will equal more wins, maybe even championships, but it sure pisses on the 2011 season, only a mere two months after it thrilled 49er Nation and the team itself. That family atmosphere made the 49ers seem different than the rest of the league. It was fun. Now it’s just another ruthless enterprise. Where’s the organization that did things with class? MIA.
So the unseemly fawning over The Manning will continue into this week, while His Royal Magnificence ponders which franchise to donate his superbness to. Even the great John Elway is running around the country on his knees, begging. Egad. But Elway has desperate as an excuse. When did the Niners get desperate, too?
One thing is clear. If Baalke doesn’t land Manning, he’s completely blown this offseason — and the 2012 season, too — but good. A gamble that wasn’t even necessary. And he will have done it by lowballing and disrespecting the most important and loyal player on the team. And should that be the outcome, Harbaalke will deserve all the boos they will surely receive. Both in the stands, on the blogs, and in the locker room.
Smith rides off with a 13-3, NFC Championship OT appearance in his saddle bags, with only a butter fingered punt returner between him and the Lombardi. Let’s see if Peyton can top that. Or even come close.