This post isn't here to make any grand statements, but simply share a few personal thoughts I have regarding the 49ers and Alex Smith's future(s).
I don't think many people expected to see a dramatically different Alex Smith last night than they would have seen before, and they didn't. I will give him credit for doing small things that show he did indeed learn from sitting for several weeks (stepping up in the pocket, running to his left and looking down field, going for the pylon on 3rd and goal, holding the ball rather than rushing the throw, etc). But none of those things are enough for him to make the statement I believe he needed to make to have any chance of being a 49ers quarterback next year and beyond.
Alex wasn't the problem or the solution last night. He was just a player doing what he could to stay in the game, but a combination of boneheaded plays, questionable calls, and an impressive opponent created the snowball we are all too familiar with: The 49ers getting beaten (and in this case, totally hammered).
With that said, I felt Alex's only chance to make a case to stay on this team would have been to overcome the odds and have an impressive performance against the excellent defense of the Chargers (as well as run the table to finish the season). I don't blame him for not doing that against such an impressive Chargers defense, but that is neither here nor there. He was simply mediocre, and that won't be nearly enough to change the minds of fans or the franchise.
So, I bid Alex Smith farewell. I rooted for him from the time they drafted him all the way to this day, and I will still root for him wherever he goes. However, this most stubborn of Alex Smith supporters sees the time has come. It really is better for both sides to part ways. It was never all Alex Smith's fault, but he was never the solution, either.
I'm not saying there is 0% chance he returns to the 49ers, but it certainly isn't likely. At this point, I would be fine with a short term contract as a backup, but it might be better for both sides to just let go.
Side Note: In my opinion acquiring a Palmer or McNabb type of QB wouldn't be a bad stopgap for a newly drafted quarterback to develop beneath. A veteran that has had success but is more accessible now that he isn't the Pro Bowler he once was. With the latest news of McNabb's benching, this very well could be a possibility, especially with the likelihood we go back to the WCO with which he happens to be familiar. Also, in the far off chance we do bring A. Smith back, he could benefit from sitting beneath a guy like Palmer/McNabb.
I think this franchise needs to purge itself of the Nolan/Singletary/Smith era altogether. A restructured front office, new coaching regime, and new faces at QB seem completely necessary to get the stench of this half-decade as far away as possible. I certainly think they need to re-connect to the dynasty and Bill Walsh tree, and I'd bet Jed York feels the same way. He grew up watching the dynasty just like I did (and he was part of it first hand), so you know it is etched in his mind permanently. I think he will figure this thing out. I really do. He's young, but he has the intelligence, desire, people and resources to help him make sound decisions.
I do think Alex Smith can develop into a very good quarterback (you'll hear the same thing said from guys like Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci, Norv Turner, and even Mike Martz). I don't know what Jed York feels at this point, and I do think the next coaching regime/front office will decide Alex Smith's future with the franchise, but it seems obvious time has run out and frustration has reached its peak. I'm not playing a blame game. The simple fact: it has not worked.
As for Mike Singletary... I haven't written about him because we all know that is an absolute: The guy is gone. He very well could become a good head coach someday (I think this was a very valuable experience for him, and he seems to be improving). But, again, farewell. We must move forward.
This leaves me with my final thoughts (as I watch Singletary's live press conference): I am excited for the future. I feel the horizon has good things in store for 49ers fans. There is a solid nucleus of talent on this team that can help us win sooner rather than later (though the look of the team will likely be heavily altered with the next regime). So... as low as it is now, I do believe. Bring on the future. I hope the same mistakes aren't made again.