“It’d be pretty hypocritical to be upset about it,” Smith said. “It’s the nature of sports. He got an opportunity, stepped up and made the most of it.”
Smith made a few things clear: No, his confidence isn’t shaken, and, no, he hasn’t thought about what’s next _ where he might end up, or as a starter or a No. 2. When the 49ers faced Arizona to end the season, Smith was asked if he looked at his brief playing time as an audition to be the Cardinals’ QB for 2013.
Not with unfinished business this season.
“He’s a very classy guy,” said Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, in Smith’s draft class.
San Francisco lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants 20-17 in overtime of the NFC title game last January. That fueled everybody, the 28-year-old Smith included.
Smith tossed a perfect 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis with 9 seconds remaining as the Niners stunned Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints 36-32 in the divisional playoffs last year.
Smith, once booed by the home crowd as he struggled to find a groove for an ever-changing list of offensive coordinators, finally shined last season and produced a career year while thriving under the guidance of former NFL quarterback Harbaugh.
It was Smith, unsigned at the time, who organized San Francisco’s summer workouts at nearby San Jose State during the 2011 lockout. Harbaugh handed over his playbook, fully trusting that Smith would be back. He did return on a one-year deal and guided the 49ers to a 13-3 record to end an eight-year playoff drought. Then, he received a three-year contract last spring after Harbaugh and the 49ers flew to North Carolina to work out Peyton Manning, who wound up in Denver.
Smith showed no hard feelings and went back to work. Here’s a guy who threw for 1,737 yards and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions and posted a 104.1 passer rating this season.
His family life certainly helps him keep everything in perspective.
Smith and his wife, Elizabeth, are expecting their second son in mid-March to join big brother-to-be Hudson, who turns 2 in May.
Smith has said all the right things and quietly left much unsaid. He has stayed behind the scenes and out of the spotlight _ rarely seen in the locker room, even _ praising Kaepernick’s clutch decision-making and cool demeanor all the while.
“Alex has been a class act as far as handling everything that is going on,” Davis said. “He’s been through a lot. But he also understands that it’s the nature of the business. And this is a business.”
It’s not as though it was Smith’s first benching. There were several changes during the 2010 season alone.
These days, Smith’s backup job is far from complicated.