When San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Alex Smith was chosen first overall in the 2005 NFL draft, the 49ers figured they were choosing their franchise quarterback for the next decade. He was selected to follow in the tradition of great 49ers’ quarterbacks like Joe Montana and Steve Young. It would only be a matter of time before Smith joined the legendary Montana and Young in San Francisco 49er folklore.
Unfortunately, Smith has yet to live up to his high draft status. And perhaps he never will. In his eight year career in San Francisco, Smith has thrown 81 touchdown passes and 63 interceptions. While those numbers are solid, they’re hardly acceptable for a man who was chosen to be the 49ers’ franchise quarterback for years to come.
Smith suffered a concussion during the 49ers’ 2012 Week 11 game with the St. Louis Rams, a game that ended in a tie. Smith’s injury paved the way for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who played so well that he never relinquished the position. Kaepernick’s solid play spearheaded San Francisco’s drive to reach Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens. It also solidified his status as the 49ers’ new franchise quarterback.
Where does that leave Smith? Regardless of the outcome of the big game, Smith’s tenure in San Francisco may have come to an end. At best, Smith will have to accept a reserve role behind the fleet-footed Kaepernick if he remains in San Francisco next season. At worst, he may ask for his release just one year into a three year, $24 million contract.
It’s a sad state of affairs for Smith. Most NFL players would love the opportunity to reach the Super Bowl. He could hardly have imagined that he would lose his starting position due to injury. Now he has to suffer the indignity of watching his former backup Kaepernick earn the opportunity to win the 49ers’ sixth Super Bowl title in as many attempts. It’s a position that only those with a strong sense of professionalism can bear. Only time will tell how Smith responds in the coming months.