What’s the Harbaugh vs Smith deal?

This is all speculation…..

I realize that unless you are a 49ers fan, this post will mean nothing. But I need to write down my thoughts on this because I’m not hearing anyone else say it and I’d like to see how it pans out.

First of all, I believe that for individuals like Alex, there is much more to life than football. He’s got a young family, bought a new house here in Los Gatos last year and I regularly see him about town. In Walgreens buying kids medicine, hanging out at the farmers market on Sunday mornings, eating with his wife and a couple of the offensive linemen at local restaurants, pushing the stroller with his kid near his house.

He’s also a smart guy. He probably has plenty of plans for his post-football life and, as the treatment from the 49ers and their fans have shown over the last number of years, he’s also resilient.

So, this all starts in the off-season with Harbaugh’s failed attempt to woo Peyton Manning to San Francisco. Clearly this was a vote of no-confidence from Harbaugh in Smith which led to Smith interviewing with the Dolphins (much to his surprise I believe). But, after Manning decided that he preferred Elway to Harbaugh, Smith decided to stick around in SF and why not? He’d just bought a new house, had a good relationship with his team mates, knew that SF was a very good team and got I think around $8m a year. But….did he trust Harbaugh anymore? Of course not, Harbaugh showed that his words were empty; actions always speak louder than words.

So into the season and the 9ers are doing great. Had a couple of bad losses (Vikings and Giants), one of which you could say that Smith played badly in (Giants) but apart from that they were cruising. Solidly in the #2 seed position, many independents had them as a lock for the superbowl and Smith’s style worked because of the 9ers incredible defense, strong running game and Smith not turning the ball over.

Then it happened….the concussion happened in the Rams game. Smith reported it (as he is supposed to do) and went through the requisite tests the following week. Now remember, he was taking all the snaps in practice during that week after the Rams game getting ready for the Bears on Monday night football, so everyone was expecting him to play, but he did not get cleared by the doctors and Kaepernick came in.

Kap played a good game and the 9ers won against what we thought was a great Bears team (although Jay Cutler was out having also suffered a concussion and we’ve since learned that the Bears are actually not that good as they are struggling to get into the playoffs).

Then what happened? Well Kap took the snaps in practice the following week getting ready for the Saints game…..but why? Harbaugh must have known that Smith would have been ready for the Saints game so why did he immediately make the decision to switch to Kaepernick based on a single NFL start? But more than that, why was Harbaugh so coy about it with the press and the players (he personally created the QB controversy – the “hot hand”, the “they are both our guys”, “we’ll go with Kap and we’ll go with Alex”).

My belief is that he did this because, even though he had personally already decided, he was struggling to justify it to others (after all, it doesn’t make much sense right?) From what I’ve seen of Harbaugh he is not the indecisive type….so why was he acting this one out?

Since then, the “hot hand” is no longer hot but….is there any discussion of moving back to Alex? No, because there never was from Harbaugh’s perspective. Kap has shown some great stuff, but also shown a ton of rookie mistakes. He was exposed in Seattle, was horrible in the Rams game and yet, because we all love and trust Harbaugh, we make excuses. “Bad play call” instead of horrible pass and interception. Does anyone else remember Alex playing in Seattle a couple of seasons ago and being panned by the media because they couldn’t get him the play calls in time?

Anyhow, this is not about whether Kap can be better over time than Alex. Time will tell and he looks like he’s got tons of potential. But this is about winning now (hence the courting of Manning) so why risk so much with a QB that is inexperienced versus one that was an overtime away from the superbowl. Yes, great wins against Saints, Bears, Patriots for Kap. But have we forgotten the Alex win against Packers at Lambeau? Have we forgotten the clutch Alex win against the Saints in the playoffs last year.

Why, why, why?

My theory starts with….we are all human. Yes, we all would like to think that we make business decisions purely based on winning and losing, but there is also such a thing as personality, trust, chemistry etc. I’ve seen it on plenty of occasions…..hiring and firing is never purely about business impact so why would we expect football coaches to be any different?

My theory/speculation is that there is a personal issue between Smith and Harbaugh. Probably starts from the burnt trust in the off-season but maybe, just maybe, Alex didn’t handle the concussion the way that others would have liked?

I read this interesting piece on the web the other day (yeah right, just more speculation I know) on Why does Richard Sherman hate Harbaugh so much?

Now, my understanding of what happened is that Sherman chose Stanford over USC because of the Stanford education and because Walt Harris recruited him as a WR while Pete was recruiting him as a CB.

Sherman got injured his JR year, and decided to have surgery, using an injury redshirt. Harbaugh didn’t like that. The next year, Harbaugh had buried Sherman on the WR depth chart, despite Sherman being Stanford’s leading receiver before the injury (so he got the Alex Smith treatment). Sherman decided to move to CB both for playing time and because Stanford needed more help there anyway.

Anyhow, maybe we will never find out and maybe we will.

But the above is pure speculation and I happen to really enjoy Alex, Kap and Harbaugh, so it’s not about the individuals.
I just wonder why we don’t expect professional athletes and coaches to be human and act like humans; the media never tries to explore the human side of any story.

Or….Kap may rip it up and win the superbowl this season in which case, I will happily be very wrong :)

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