MADRID — I’m happy to take a moment here on vacation to report that I have been keeping abreast of the news back home and I’m thoroughly pleased with the recent turn of events for the San Francisco 49ers.
The moves of the past month have been needed for a long time.
First, the Week 15 firing of Mike Singletary capped what was surely the most disappointing coaching stint in 49ers history since Dennis Erickson’s “glorious” return from the college ranks. Second, the hiring of 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, who fills a role that was left void following Scot McCloughlan’s abrupt departure after the Mike Nolan reign, put a must needed football man in front of a once awkward power structure. And lastly, Jim Harbaugh’s hiring ices the cake as the 49ers went after, and attained, one of the best college coaches in the game and a guy on everybody’s wish list. (Well, OK, maybe just Miami’s.)
“It’s the perfect competitive challenge,” Harbaugh told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I look forward to coaching against John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick and the many great coaches in the NFL.”
I love how he threw the hoodie in there.
With all of this turnabout, Jed York is starting to appear to make good on his promises to change the franchise for the better. And at 5 years, $25 million for Harbaugh, we can all see he’s putting his money where is mouth is.
Now all the team has to do is draft a quarterback. After six seasons with Alex Smith in the “is he our guy, is he not our guy” bubble, 49ers fans are eager to put that talk to rest and focus in on moving forward completely. Much like Singletary, the 49ers organization tried it out, it didn’t work. And much like Nolan, Singletary tied himself to Smith’s hip and was sunk because of it.
What’s left to be said of Alex Smith? He was a great college quarterback that came from a system drastically different from the NFL game. He had six different offensive coordinators (and seven different offensive philosophies) in six seasons. He was bludgeoned with responsibility to lead Joe Montana’s franchise. He was incapable of inspiring his teammates or winning games when it mattered. And he was tiredly inconsistent, dogmatic in his poor reads and uninspired play. Smith only showed flashes of progress when the hook could clearly be felt on his neck. But my lasting image of Smith will always be of him nostril to nostril with Singletary, arguing to go back in the game in a Week 5 loss to Philadelphia. He was a man right there fighting for his career. Smith won that battle, but lost the war a long time ago. Especially in my eyes. But for Singletary, he was the best option he had — and wanted. And that’s a bed he made unto himself.
So now it’s time to put these nightmares to rest. (And really, it’s all been one giant nightmare since Steve Mariucci was fired.) For once, the franchise appears to be lockstep in its approach toward winning and with the right quarterback, one more step from the playoffs.
Zuri Berry rambles about things like the 49ers and other inconsequentialities as well here. Follow him on Twitter at @zuriberry for all of his lame attempts at humor and updates on topics in journalism, the 49ers, Giants, the NBA and Massachusetts High School Sports.