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Saturday, March 17, 2012
Manning and 49ers' championship window

By Mike Sando

Thaisport from San Francisco wants my take on the Peyton Manning news regarding the San Francisco 49ers. He thinks this is a "win-win" situation because Manning would deliver an NFC West title to the 49ers, Manning would make every offensive player better and the team knows Alex Smith will still be there as a fallback.

Manning
"A solid core of offensive players around a decent QB can make him look good," Thaisport writes. "A great QB around a solid core of players would make them look great. I think the 49ers front office is making all the right moves so far this off season. Your thoughts?"

Mike Sando: It's clear we need to break old habits when analyzing the 49ers. They were an easy team to mock when Jed York was publicly guaranteeing division titles with an 0-5 record, Mike Singletary was dropping trou as head coach, the team was changing offensive coordinators every year, Smith was floundering and the stadium situation remained a mess.

We should not underestimate this organization. York has led a successful push for a new stadium. He went against convention when hiring Trent Baalke as his general manager, with better-than-expected results (think NaVorro Bowman, Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner, paying Ray McDonald instead of Aubrayo Franklin). The organization secured Jim Harbaugh as head coach when Harbaugh was the hottest and, it turns out, best candidate. Gideon Yu and Kunal Malik were also strategic additions.

Now, one week into the Manning circus, we find out the 49ers have made a very calculating move to position themselves for the quarterback's services. This strikes me as something the 49ers would not have seriously considered right after the season, when the bond between Smith and Harbaugh was strongest. This decision was easier to make a couple months into the offseason, when strategic thinking takes its firmest hold.

This is a bold move, and one an organization doesn't make without leadership at the ownership level. York presumably saw this as a rare opportunity to seize upon a championship window. Sticking with Smith would have been more comfortable. The 49ers might wind up going that route, anyway. They could have some damage control to do if that is the case. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Randy Moss' addition was another move with the short term in mind.

Smith has shown he's adept at swallowing his pride. And in this case, we're talking about Peyton Manning, not some average quarterback. I'm reminded of Arizona defensive end Darnell Dockett's public support for Manning as Kevin Kolb's replacement on the Cardinals. Dockett said he would have no trouble with someone lobbying for the team to sign a new defensive end if Reggie White or Bruce Smith were the ones under consideration.

That is how I feel about teams pursuing Manning when they already have quarterbacks in place. Those teams' existing quarterbacks might not like it, but that is too bad for them. Owners, executives and coaches have a responsibility to act in the best interests of their organizations. Looking into Manning qualifies as that type of move.