When The Peyton Manning Sweepstakes reached full steam, two teams were seen as his most likely destination – the Denver Broncos who eventually won out, and the Tennessee Titans. However, after the deal with Denver became official, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King broke the news of a clandestine meeting and workout session Manning held for the San Francisco 49ers, a very unlikely darkhorse in the race.
… That night 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman came to see Manning throw on a lighted field at Duke. First they watched from a car by the side of the field, then, to get a better view, they came onto the field, hoodies pulled over their heads so as not to be recognized by some nosy iPhoner. Manning texted his mother, Olivia: “You’ll never guess who I just worked out for. He was wearing a hoodie.”
“Bill Belichick?” she responded.
Good one! Nope, Jim Harbaugh.
What made this bit of news so interesting was the fact that the 49ers 2011 starting quarterback, Alex Smith, was being courted by division rival Seattle Seahawks and the Miami Dolphins. Smith would go on to re-sign with 49ers for 3 years, $24 Million.
When asked about his team’s pursuit of Peyton, Harbaugh claimed he was just doing his due diligence and Alex Smith was his man all along:
“Alex Smith is our quarterback, was our quarterback and (we) had every intention of always bringing him back.”
“Were we out there seeing, evaluating if we could have them both? Heck yeah,” Harbaugh said. “You evaluate that, you eliminate the possibility. We would not have given any player out there in free agency a sixth of our salary cap and let six or seven of our own guys go. Hopefully, that sets the record straight. You don’t have to keep reporting the silliness or phoniness.
“There was interest (in Manning) and we evaluated it, pursued it, further evaluated it and there was conversations. But there was nothing said to Alex that was not said to Peyton Manning or in house here, on the record or off the record. Both those young men knew exactly what our intentions were.”
Harbaugh’s claims of “silliness or phoniness” being reported were immediately panned by the media. Sources close to ProFootBallTalk paint a different picture in terms of just how close the 49ers were to landing Manning.
The Niners didn’t simply kick Manning’s tires. They were in it until the very end. Though the Broncos, 49ers, and Titans were regarded as the finalists, it actually came down, we’re told, to Denver and San Francisco.
The real question is whether Jim Harbaugh lost any credibility in his own locker room, specifically with his own quarterback. With Smith being represented by Tom Condon, who also represents Peyton Manning, Smith has fairly immediate access to the truth. Even without the ability to talk to Condon, Smith is smart enough to see what was going on, when it was going on.
The fact that Manning and Smith are represented by the same agent makes this an interesting case. More than likely, both players were kept in the loop the entire time during the “evaluation” process. If Tom Condon had allowed for any sort of secret meeting with Manning to go down without alerting Smith, he’d likely have one peeved client on his hands. And, if he allowed one client to unseat another for a starting spot on HIS team, he’d likely find himself with one less player to represent. That leads me to believe Harbaugh’s assertions that Alex Smith was his guy all along. Signing Manning and allowing Smith to walk would have caused a huge mess for the parties involved.