If the 49ers are serious about winning the Super Bowl, they should move heaven and earth to sign Peyton Manning — if Manning is healthy. Sure, that is a big "if," but it's easy enough to gauge Manning's game readiness.

Former Press Democrat sportswriter Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea is reporting the Niners have no interest in signing Manning — they are working on a multiyear contract with incumbent quarterback Alex Smith.

The conclusion is painfully obvious: The 49ers are not serious about winning the Super Bowl.

What a shame.

What a rip-off.

What a collective failure of nerve.

Let's be real clear about this. Manning, who will be 36 later this month, is one of the greatest quarterbacks who ever lived. He is a certain Hall of Famer.

Smith is most definitely not one of the greatest quarterbacks who ever lived. He never will be one of the greatest quarterbacks who ever lived. He is a pretty good quarterback who always will remain a pretty good quarterback — nothing more. On the other hand, he's a very nice guy.

Why do the 49ers need Manning?

They have a championship-caliber defense but their offense is not championship-caliber. They need an offense to complement the defense. It's more than that — they owe their defense a worthy offense.

Smith is holding back the 49ers' offense — he is their lack and their limit. They need a better quarterback. They have a chance to get a better quarterback. Get Manning.

Smith is reluctant to make high-risk/high-reward throws, maybe because he's not good at them. He checks down all the time to safe, unimportant passes. He is the master of three-and-out. Manning can complete high-risk/high-reward throws 24/7. And he loves the challenge. A great team needs a quarterback who thrives by living on the edge.

The 49ers play a safety-first offense, partly because of Smith, partly because they lack deep-threat wide receivers — a problem they say they will rectify. With Manning, they could be bombs away. They need to be bombs away.

The 49ers stink in the red zone. Manning would change all that.

Jim Harbaugh always says there is open competition for starting quarterback. He said this at the end of last season. Open competition is Harbaugh's creed. OK, honor your creed. Throw Manning into open competition with Smith. Who do you think would win that competition?

If Colin Kaepernick really is the 49ers' quarterback of the future, whom do you think he would learn more from — Manning or Smith? The answer is obvious — Manning. Kaepernick plays like Manning. He makes smart, quick decisions like Manning. Smith is the opposite. He plays not to lose.

So, what would prevent the 49ers from going all out for Manning?

They are cheap. They have convinced themselves Smith is better than he is.

They foolishly think they can win a Super Bowl with Smith.

Harbaugh is not as brave as he seems. What does that mean?

Harbaugh portrays himself as Coach as Tough Guy. He likes to project total tough guy. But maybe he isn't so tough, after all. Maybe he won't pull the trigger on Manning because deep down he's afraid he can't stand up to someone with that self-confidence and that will and pride.

Harbaugh needs a perpetual pupil as his quarterback. Manning would hardly submit to being a pupil.

Harbaugh is used to bossing around Smith, the meek and mild. He won't be able to boss around Manning, a superstar with a superstar ego. When he starts buzzing in Manning's helmet before the play, Manning might tune him out. When he starts telling Manning how to throw or place his feet, Manning might remind Harbaugh that he was, after all, a pretty mediocre quarterback in his day. Manning might say he knows more about playing quarterback than Harbaugh.

And please don't say Harbaugh stood up to Andrew Luck, another superstar.

Luck was a college kid in awe of Harbaugh. Luck had a lot to learn. This deal would be entirely different.

If the Niners win the Super Bowl with Manning, they will be identified as Manning's team, not Harbaugh's team. Maybe that would rankle Harbaugh.

OK, those are the arguments on each side of the issue. And here is the inescapable conclusion.

If the 49ers don't go after Manning — and it seems they won't — it means one thing and one thing only. They are not trying to win the Super Bowl any time soon.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.