I just took my son shopping at Target, wearing (at random, actually) a 49ers sweater. Because it was clean. OK, mostly clean. And comfortable.
I was walking along towards the checkout when a random dude clutching his iPhone says, "can you believe this news with the Niners? I'm on Niners nation now!" He gestured his phone towards me. He told me he heard we might be getting Tebow. I said, "Nooo!!!" and then I wondered just how important my 49ers fandom was to my identity, but decided to defer that existential question until there was more confirmation there.
But, look, folks. Don't panic. I'll tell you why on the jump.
Can you allow me one speculation? Thanks. The 49ers kept their interest in Manning quiet. Then he visited the other two teams. The buzz with the Niners only came after the story broke, and it may have had nothing to do with where he was headed at that moment. That's my speculation.
Now, my analysis of this.
(1) Manning's signature on a Niner contract would not guarantee us a Super Bowl championship. It wouldn't have even guaranteed an improvement on a 13-3 season that got us a first-round bye and a home field NFC championship game we came within a dropped ball or a first down or two of winning. In fact, everyone knows there's a significant risk there.
(2) The Niners "professionalism" that made them attractive in the first place, the non-circus-like workout, etc. made them much less motivated to bend over backwards. The Broncos had more cap space and had to find a way out of this Tebow hysteria that was going to sink a team that was showing that it actually had some talent, especially on defense.
(3) Alex Smith sucks. OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration. He's... highly average. He had a great 2011, and it was something to see watching him make a comeback like that. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that. But, let's face it, he was back to his old self in the 4th quarter and in OT of the NFC championship game. Remember that guy?
(4) The season doesn't start tomorrow. In fact, quarterbacks can't even practice with coaches and wide receivers for a few more weeks. A trade is possible. I don't want to start a rumor, but isn't Drew Brees feuding with the Saints? That's not to say there's even a chance there, but just to say that we have a long way to go until the season starts and there are other folks that might be interested in coming over that might be acquired through a trade.
(5) Alex Smith will probably re-sign, anyway. Which will probably suck. Because he will probably not do as good next year and seems to be butt-hurt over something that was just business. I mean, do you think he "unfriended" Harbaugh on Facebook? I will shed no tears for him and the seven or eight figure contract he's going to sign somewhere.
(6) Manning would have been a circus. The whole media thing with his signing was annoying. Did you see the graphic that showed that he was mentioned more than all but a couple of other NFL players last season on ESPN and he DIDN'T EVEN PLAY! Tim Tebow was #1 and Tom Brady was #2. Manning was #3. Yes, Peyton.
This would have put a lot of pressure on the team. Winning cures all ills, but one bump in the road and it could have been bad.
The bottom line is this: what the Niners need is not Manning or Smith. They need someone above average who isn't the distraction of a top tier QB. And those are out there. Patience, young Jedi.