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Cohn: 49ers-Smith relationship like a bad marriage

  • 10/12/2010: C1:

    PC: Coach Singletary yells at Alex Smith on the sidelines as fans booed the starting quarterback in the 4th quarter. The 49ers lost to the Eagles 27-24 at Candlestick Park on October 10, 2010.

The 49ers have offered Alex Smith a one-year deal. The Sacramento Bee reported this nugget a few days ago and other papers have confirmed it. If you need an antacid before proceeding with this column, please do what's necessary.

The good news is Smith has not accepted the offer — he's not allowed to during the labor impasse, another bit of good news. The bad news is he might.

It's clear why the 49ers want Smith. They are a football team without a quarterback, never a good place to be. With the ongoing lockout, the Niners aren't sure where they can get a quarterback. There's the draft, but drafting a quarterback — the 49ers will do that — means breaking in the rookie and that usually takes years.

That's where Smith comes in. He has been a 49er and he was the first pick in that 2005 draft and yadda yadda yadda. But he is a mirage and he always will be a mirage, and the 49ers should sign another quarterback when the lockout ends — it will end sometime or other.

Under no circumstances should they continue their relationship with Smith. The Niners and Smith are like an unhappy couple that spends years in couples therapy never working anything out because the marriage was a dud from Day One.

If the 49ers re-sign Smith he would be a bridge to the new guy they draft next week — Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, whomever. But would he be a good bridge or would he collapse and plop into the swirling waters below? I say he's collapsible.

He's already gotten two head coaches fired. Granted Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary did a lot to get themselves fired, but their insistence on Smith was a deal breaker and a job ender, for sure.

Jim Harbaugh appears to be a better coach than those two — no one knows for sure how he will do in the NFL but he has the appearance of a good head coach. Part of his innate ability is his self-belief. He was a pro quarterback and he has developed quarterbacks and he operates with an absolute, dead-on certainty he can salvage Smith, can do what no one else did.

You want a coach with confidence. It's just that, when it comes to Smith, Harbaugh is absolutely wrong. And someone in the 49er organization must save him from himself.

You may be asking yourself why Smith is so bad for the 49ers aside from his general badness. If there's one thing we've learned about Smith it's his inability to perform well in new systems and with new offensive coordinators. Over the years, Smith went out of his way to inform the public of these facts. He explained how the field looks vague to him until he masters the new system. He also told us he is not a quick study. So if the Niners bring him back, they could be dealing with a vague-field quarterback all season.


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