Those are the two options, and pretty much the only two options according to Jim Harbaugh. He was the latest to say words from behind a microphone at the NFL Combine this affternoon, words which are then consumed and dissected by anyone with access to a typing device (hi Jim!).
While saying that he believes his 49ers have the best quarterback situation in the NFL with Alex Smith the backup to young Colin Kaepernick, Harbaugh all but dismissed the possibility of the former being released, calling such a move “unlikely“.
Of course he’s saying that now, because he has to say that now. Leverage is the soul of the NFL offseason, and if the Niners even publicly hint that Smith being released is a possibility, then any power they have in trade negotiations with the usual stable of QB-needy teams dies quickly. In all likelihood, Smith has played his final game in San Francisco, and he’ll be jettisoned through a trade. But a slight — ever so slight — possibility remains that he could stay.
As Robert Griffin III has so infamously demonstrated, quarterbacks who run a lot are also quarterbacks who expose themselves to violent hits a lot. Hell, long before RG3 and Kaepernick there was Michael Vick, and in his prime he balanced brilliance and brittleness. Fun times.
That’s why although it remains unlikely, the notion that Smith could stay in San Francisco isn’t that outlandish. Financially it’s manageable, because between Smith and Kaepernick the Niners would be paying about $9.2 million for two quarterbacks. In a world where personalities and egos aren’t a thing, that scenario would play out perfectly, with Smith not uttering a word of disappointment about never playing a meaningful snap.
Since science still hasn’t been able to extract emotion from humans, that won’t happen, and Smith will be shipped to a foreign football land where being a starting quarterback is possible. Yesterday ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said the market isn’t exactly piping hot for Smith, and a fourth-round pick may be the best the 49ers can do, which is just fine.
To give you an idea of the potential mid-round gold that can be found in that spot, here are a few recent fourth-round picks who are pretty good at football: Cecil Shorts (2011, 114th overall), Aaron Hernandez (2010, 113th), Geno Atkins (2010, 120th), Brian Hartline (2009, 108th), Austin Collie (2009, 127th), Red Bryant (2008, 121st).
Oh, and during his press conference Harbaugh also told us where he gets his supreme sense of honesty and discipline…
“I’m a big fan of the Judge Judy show. If you lie to her- its over. Tell the truth!” -Jim Harbaugh #NFLCombine
— George Whitfield Jr. (@georgewhitfield) February 22, 2013