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Is 49ers' Alex Smith more than a game manager?

  • By Andy Fenelon NFL.com
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It's difficult to engage in a conversation about Alex Smith the day after yet another brilliant performance by the guy he will forever be linked to.

Maybe that connection to Aaron Rodgers will be the reason Smith, the quarterback the San Francisco 49ers took first overall in the 2005 draft -- 23 spots ahead of the rock-star Rodgers -- will have the "game-manager" label attached to him no matter what he accomplishes in his career.

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Maybe it's the reason Smith shudders every time he hears the term, like he did again after Sunday's victory over the New York Giants in which he played near flawless.

"I could really care less," said Smith, when asked about being labeled a "game manager," like some Giants players labeled him the week leading up to the game. "That's the honest truth. I managed myself into a victory. That's all I care about."

That's good enough for Jim Harbaugh ("He’s a great 'game manager,' " the 49ers coach said on Sunday), but will it be good enough for the naysayers, and more importantly, is it be good enough to get the 49ers to the Super Bowl?

The former probably matters little to those with thick enough skin, and history will take care of the latter. And history has shown "game managers" can be good enough when supported by a stout defense and a superior run game, both of which the 49ers have.

Bart Starr. Bob Griese. Trent Dilfer. They're all former game managers who were fitted for Super Bowl rings. And there were plenty of pretty average quarterbacks to win Super Bowls, too, like Jim McMahon, Doug Williams and Eli Manning.

Heck, even when Terry Bradshaw won his first ring, it happened in a season (1974) when he was benched for Joe Gilliam. Joe Gilliam! Bradshaw had a completion percentage of 45.3 and averaged fewer than 100 passing yards per game in his six starts that year.

Maybe the lesson to be taken from all of this is that no matter what happens to Smith, no matter how he plays and is perceived going forward, if he "manages" a Super Bowl victory, like Dilfer and Bradshaw before him, he'll have quite a broadcasting career to look forward to.

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