Jim Harbaugh had to get something off his chest Wednesday.
"It's an erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning," the San Francisco 49ers coach said, according to The Sacramento Bee. "I keep hearing that over and over again. 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," Harbaugh went on. "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 and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman traveled to Duke University in March to watch Manning throw, leading to speculation the 49ers had emerged as a sleeper candidate for the 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback. Though understandable from an outsider's standpoint, the perceived pursuit was surprising because Harbaugh had championed Smith from the moment he took the job 14 months earlier.
"Now, were we out there seeing, evaluating if we could have them both? Heck yeah," Harbaugh said of his Duke visit. "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."
Harbaugh's comments are a nice way to try to put a bow on the whole situation, but the bottom line is that the 49ers explored Manning as an option, and that exploration was enough to get Alex Smith on a plane to visit with the Miami Dolphins. It appears Harbaugh is more bothered by the perception that San Francisco went hard after Manning, which he maintains couldn't be further from the truth.
It's surprising Harbaugh even brought up a topic that could be considered water under the bridge. But like we said, the man had to get something off his chest.