SAN FRANCISCO — In the wake of San Francisco's opportunity to win an NFL record-tying sixth Super Bowl, former starter Alex Smith has met his disappointment with grace and class.
In the media frenzy that precedes every Super Bowl, Smith spoke about this season and the disappointment of losing his job to backup Colin Kaepernick after suffering a concussion in week 10 of the NFL season.
“Yeah, he got an opportunity, stepped up and made the most of it — that’s the deal,” Smith said. “I mean, that’s how I got my start in college, it was no different. Guy in front of me got hurt and that’s how I got my first start."
The guy that was in front of Alex Smith back at the beginning of the 2003 season was Brett Elliott. After leading the Utes to a 40-20 home victory over the Utah State Aggies, Elliott was sidelined after he broke his wrist against Texas A&M.
From then on, Smith led the Utes, and he did it better than any other Utah quarterback in history. He went 21-1 as a starter on the hill, finished as a runner up in the Heisman voting and led Utah to its first BCS bowl win, a 35-7 thrashing of Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl.
That's the way it goes in sports. If a player is injured, his job is in instant peril. Smith gets that.
"...It’d be pretty hypocritical to be upset about it," Smith said. "It’s just the nature of team sports."
Despite the disappointment of not leading his team to the Super Bowl, Smith has not held poor feelings against Kaepernick. On the contrary, Smith has displayed a positive, professional attitude and seems to be enjoying himself. A report on a San Jose Mercury News blog reads that Smith has been seen partying right alongside his replacement since their homecoming from Atlanta.
Smith had a terrific season while he was the starter. He had a 7-2 record as the starter in 2012 and nearly led his team to the Super Bowl in the 2011 season. But with the recent rise of Kaepernick, Smith's return to the helm of the 49ers is not probable. According to NFL.com Around the League writer Marc Sessler, Alex Smith is likely on his way out of the city by the bay.
"He finished the year with a passer rating of 104.1," Sessler wrote, "a figure that doesn't often cost jobs. His work over the past two seasons is sure to earn Smith a chance to start somewhere else down the line, but his days in San Francisco are likely numbered.
Former Super Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner is pretty high on Smith. Warner told CSNBayArea.com he thinks the 49ers would have made it had Smith never gotten injured.
"When you look back at that game last year, we say Alex Smith couldn’t [lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl]. Well, Alex Smith played well enough in that game to get them to the Super Bowl; it was really other circumstances that prevented that. There is no question in my mind that Alex Smith could have gotten them to the Super Bowl because I believe this team has so many different ways to win. But we can’t mistake the fact that what Colin Kaepernick has done with his big play ability has been something different for the San Francisco 49ers and has been a big part of why they have become so dynamic, and I believe probably the Super Bowl favorite going in."