The 49ers on Friday play the Chiefs for their second exhibition game of the season. Any other year, this game doesn’t deserve a second thought. This year is different. There’s a familiar face on that other sideline, leading that offense. An old friend. Of course we’re talking about Alex Smith.
OK, sure, it’s only preseason. Smith will be yanked before Aldon Smith and friends can get much of a chance to reacquaint themselves with him. And the game isn’t even in San Francisco. The outcome matters zilch.
But the 49ers and Alex Smith have so much history—some good, some involving fans calling him names—that doesn’t make a preseason meeting between them insignificant. To speedwalk down memory lane: The pressure was immense right off the bat for Smith as a first-overall pick. There were a whole bunch of frustrating, OMG-why-is-this-guy-still-our-starting-quarterback seasons before he finally broke through in 2011 and brought the team to within a game from the Super Bowl. Last season, he led the team to a 6-2 record before Colin Kaepernick took his keys to the offense and threw them down a storm drain. The Super Bowl happened. Smith looked sad. He got traded. It was about as mutual and necessary a break up as there is.
Really, it’s more of a big deal for 49ers fans than it probably is for the players and coaches. The fans were the ones on the roller coaster through Smith’s highs and lows while Aaron Rodgers consistently did cooler things in Green Bay. So, that’s probably why 49ers OC Greg Roman dismissed Smith as just another guy the 49ers have to play:
“He’s a nameless, faceless opponent,” said offensive coordinator Greg roman of new Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. Roman had a smile on his face and then elaborated a bit. “Loved working with Alex,” he continued. “I’m very happy for Alex and his success and very appreciative of all the contributions he made as a 49er.”
Kind of a harsh choice of words. But the meaning isn’t lost. Smith matters just as much as the next QB they’ll have to prepare for. It also helps the Niners are arguably in a better position than they were with Smith. They’ve moved on and are thrilled with the current state of their quarterbacking affairs. They traded in a Kia for a Beamer.
Friday should be an interesting game to watch. The hugs, handshakes and other interactions before and after the game between Smith and his former 49ers comrades might even be more engaging than the game itself. And if Smith outplays Kaepernick in their series or two of action, it means… well, it means absolutely nothing because it’s preseason. Should still be fun.