In a recent interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, former 49ers quarterback, Alex Smith made an appearance.
He discussed many topics throughout his career. From learning to cope with the pressures of being a number one overall pick to his time with the Kansas City Chiefs.
What was mostly discussed was his time with the San Francisco 49ers. From how he was brought in with such high expectations to his unfortunate end in benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick.
However, the biggest takeaway from his interview is the dysfunction he went through with the 49ers organization.
The Criticism Smith went through
Right away, Bensinger brings up the criticism that the current Chiefs starting quarterback went through. One of Smith’s critics during his time in San Francisco was all-time great, Jerry Rice, who said that Alex Smith was not the team’s quarterback of the future.
Smith went on to say,
Yeah, arguably the greatest football player ever… and yeah to be so vocal about me and clearly his lack of support and what he thought about me – you certainly heard… Those at certain times are hard to cancel out. So yeah you hear them… it’s tough.
It’s hard when arguably the greatest of all-time says this. It’s not even just with this that the criticism ended either. On one Sunday Night Football game, the former Ute was being harassed with boos from fans and chants of, “We want Carr.”
[It] felt like I’m battling and felt like I’m the guy that’s getting exposed out there; that there were a lot of other things that I’m taking the brunt of and all the sudden I’m dealing with a head coach on the sidelines that’s in my face and screaming at me on top of fans chanting for the backup. and I was trying to please all these people right.
I felt like the head coach [Mike Singletary] didn’t understand at all what it took… I think there finally was a moment where you’re like, ‘Man, screw this. I’m tired of trying to please all these different people. I’m done with this.’ And really kinda being that culmination of all that and I’m just gonna – I’m gonna go play for my teammates and play for me and I’m not gonna worry about the rest of this stuff.
Eventually, Smith learned to block out the critics and play for himself and others.
The Dysfunction in the organization
The circus that happened in the post-Harbaugh era is nowhere near how chaotic it was before Harbaugh’s arrival. In another moment, Bensinger highlights the constant changes that would occur around Smith during his time there.
Three head coaches, seven offensive coordinators, 17 different starting wide receivers over the course of seven seasons. In order for anybody to have success you have to have stability, and you had none of that.
Stability is something that the two-time pro bowler needed. He wasn’t getting with the 49ers, which is why he struggled.
It didn’t help that the team he was on didn’t have a winning culture or attitude either.
Yeah I mean and just the culture at the time in the building – those first six years for me – I knew that it was really dysfunctional. I knew this wasn’t the way that successful places operated. But when you’re a young QB… it’s hard to vocalize that. It’s hard to stand up and say that. It’s hard to make the change because… at that point, I don’t know what the right thing totally looks like – at the NFL level – because I haven’t been around it yet. I do know that the situation I was in was not the right way.
I knew that this was not healthy. Completely dysfunctional. Different people on different wavelengths, not a clear communication, not a clear goal of the entire building. Very separated, and even I think that all trickled into the locker room. it was a very separated locker room. Wasn’t a selfless unit, not everybody putting the team first. I mean I think all those things that come with dysfunction that are the opposite of what healthy organizations and teams environments have.
Smith after his time with the 49ers
He did leave in unfortunate circumstances after being benched in favor of Kaepernick. He brought so much to the organization and to finally have success, but then to have it taken away after an injury gave Kaepernick the opportunity to take over.
However, now with the Chiefs, he has his emergence. He’s been selected to two pro bowls and is coming off of an outstanding game against the Patriots in which he threw four touchdowns.
Although, there’s that glaring suspicion that the man behind him will take over for him soon. The Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes in the first-round, and he could end up being the guy very quickly.
Smith’s time with the Chiefs could be ending very soon. However, if he continues to play as he did in the season opener, then he will stave off another young player from taking his job.
As for 49ers fans and Alex Smith, we only hope the best for him. We’re all glad that he’s found success with a new team.