Despite the near-hysteria of the last two weeks, it seems that Peyton Manning never seriously thought of coming to the 49ers.
- Manning said he wanted to visit a team’s facility and talk to people in the organization before making a decision. He did that with Miami, and quickly dismissed the Dolphins. He had a very good meeting in Denver with John Elway and others, and later worked out for the team. He also worked out in Nashville with the Tennessee Titans in what was probably a token gesture to fans in the state where he played college football.
- He never visited the 49ers. Jim Harbaugh had to fly across the country to work him out at Duke, and Elway was also there. He never visited with anybody but Harbaugh in the 49ers organization before deciding on Denver.
- Manning had told friends he wanted to stay in the AFC so he wouldn’t have to play against his younger brother, Eli — unless both were in the Super Bowl. The other three teams he considered are in the AFC. The 49ers are in the NFC and have the Giants on their regular-season schedule in 2012.
- It would have been a very uneasy fit with Harbaugh and Manning. Harbaugh shares offensive decisions with Greg Roman and he gives Vic Fangio total authority for the defense, but he is clearly in charge. Manning’s style has been to run the game, calling plays at the line of scrimmage. Harbaugh would have chafed at that loss of control.
In contrast, Alex Smith and Harbaugh worked very closely together last season. Smith has the chance to audibilize on a play if he spots an unexpected defensive alignment, but otherwise, the plays are sent in by Roman.
The misconception that Manning was truly interested in the 49ers was one of many. The 49ers had no public comment, so writers speculated, and all of us came up with some misguided opinions.
Questioned in a conference call with writers on Wednesday, Smith set the record straight. He said his relationship with Harbaugh has remained strong, and that Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke had kept him informed of what was (or was not) happening with Manning. He has no intention of changing agents and was not serious about leaving. Though he interviewed with the Dolphins, they obviously thought he would not come to Miami because they soon signed David Garrard, who didn’t play last season and wasn’t very good when he did in previous years.
Smith is a polite, almost deferential young man when he’s interviewed, but he’s very tough mentally. He’s come through a lot with the 49ers, including incompetent coaches before Harbaugh and only one good offensive coordinator, Norv Turner.
Last season was by far his best, though the championship run fell short when he was left with only one reliable receiver, Vernon Davis, in the championship game, as the diva, Michael Crabtree, went MIA.
This year, he’ll have two more receivers, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham; and I think he’ll take his game to another level. It’s good to have him back. Let Denver fans worry about when Manning will break down.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.