Jim Harbaugh says the 49ers, contrary to perception, never pursued Peyton Manning to become the 49ers’ quarterback in 2012.
That was the nugget of “news” that came out of a 13-minute session Harbaugh held with reporters on Wednesday, as reported by the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows.
"It's an erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning. I keep hearing that over and over again," Harbaugh said, according to Barrows. "It's silly, and it's untrue. It's phony. Even the perception that we were pursuing him ... we were evaluating him. I've said all along, Alex Smith has been our quarterback. There's been no scenario, other than Alex choosing to sign with another team, that we would have considered him not as our quarterback."
Harbaugh acknowledged that he and offensive coordinator Greg Roman went to Duke University to witness Manning work out, but Harbaugh indicated they were only “evaluating” the free-agent quarterback, not “pursuing” him.
"Now, were we out there seeing, evaluating if we could have them both? Heck, yeah," Harbaugh said. "You evaluate that, you eliminate that. Further evidence: We would not have given any player that was 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."
Smith, who made a free-agent trip to Miami during the Manning saga, eventually signed a three-year, $24 million contract, with $9 million guaranteed, to keep his starting job in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Manning chose the Broncos, signing a five-year, $96 million deal with $18 million guaranteed.
The way we see it
Harbaugh’s proclamation might be worth considering if you could actually believe that the team “could have (had) them both.” What, Peyton Manning as Smith’s backup? That’s the conclusion you have to make if you believe Harbaugh’s statement that “there’s been no scenario … that we would have considered (Smith) not as our quarterback.” You would also have to believe that Harbaugh had no idea how much Manning was seeking in a contract when the coach went to Duke to “evaluate” Manning. Harbaugh, we think, would have been better off letting sleeping dogs lie, in this case.