Alex Smith, Andy Reid, Norv Turner, Jim Harbaugh;David Stern; Andrew Bogut; Mike Montgomery/Johnny Dawkins
A REPORT TODAY that has the ring of truth has the 49ers trading Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for the Chief’s second-round pick this year and a conditional pick in next year’s draft.
No deal can be announced until the league’s year officially begins on March 9, but this move would make sense for all parties.
The Chiefs badly need a quarterback. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn can both become free agents and, given their history in Kansas City, the Chiefs will be happy to see them go. When Norv Turner was the offensive coordinator for the 49ers, he said to me one time that a team which drafts No. 1 always has bad quarterbacking. The Chiefs are the latest example. But, there is no proven quarterback in this year’s draft, as Andrew Luck and R. G. Griffin were last year, both of whom went on to have excellent rookie seasons. Alex Smith is a definite upgrade over either of the two incumbents in Kansas City and, most likely, any quarterback in the draft.
So, the Chiefs could use their No. 1 pick on a quality player at another position while still grabbing the quarterback they need as their first priority.
It’s no doubt the best deal the 49ers could make, too. They did not want to deal Smith to Arizona, in the same conference, a possible deal which was rumored last week. There’s considerable evidence that the Niners did not want to see Alex throwing to Larry Fitzgerald against them a couple of times a season.
When Cleveland signed Turner to be the offensive coordinator, there was speculation that the Browns might make a deal for Smith. But, they wouldn’t have given up their first-round pick and their second-round pick will not be as high as Kansas City’s.
For Alex, it could be a great opportunity, too. Andy Reid clearly likes Smith a lot because Alex is the kind of intelligent quarterback Reid likes. Reid made it obvious in his comments the last couple of weeks that he’d be very happy to get Alex. That would be a big improvement over a coach who liked him only if he couldn’t find somebody he’d like better, whether it was the young Kaepernick or the veteran Peyton Manning.
He’d also be coming to a team that is much better than its record. The Chiefs fell last year because of a combination of bad quarterbacking and critical injuries. Alex would take care of the first problem and the return to health of the injured players would eliminate the other problem. The Chiefs are also playing in a weak division, the AFC West, that the Denver Broncos won almost by default last year.
As you undoubtedly know, I’ve always thought that Alex got a raw deal, from coaches, media and fans, after he was drafted No. 1. He was a victim of bad coach by the Mikes, Nolan and Singletary, and a weak supporting cast at first. The Niners were actually accumulating good players, mostly through the draft, but that wasn’t clear until Jim Harbaugh arrived and cleaned up the mess left by the Mikes.
If this deal goes through, it would be the second time the Niners have traded a quarterback to the Chiefs. The first time, of course, was 1993, when they sent Joe Montana to Kansas City for the Chiefs’ first round pick; I believe that turned out to be Dana Stubblefield. The trade was Montana’s idea. Coming off two years when he had played only the fourth quarter of the last game in 1992, Montana had been named the starter going into training camp by coach George Seifert, but he knew the reality of the situation. He told team president Carmen Policy that he knew that, if he were injured again, he’d be back on the bench for good but that the Chiefs would be much more patient with him. Policy wanted to make a deal with Arizona, whose pick was higher, but he granted Joe’s wish and traded him to Kansas City.
No matter how long he plays, Alex Smith will never be compared to Montana, but he probably has several more years left and Joe only lasted two. He took Kansas City to the AFC Championship game his first year – they lost to the Bills in Buffalo – but he didn’t have much left in the tank and retired after the next season, as the 49ers won their fifth Super Bowl with Steve Young having a record-setting game.
THIS COLUMN is late because, with my technological wizardry, I managed to delete the original copy so I’m rewriting the whole damn thing. Aaaargh!
THE NBA had no headline-making deals at the trade deadline last week which caused some anguish among writers who were hoping there would be more news but which was actually good news for the fans and the future of the league.
Think about it: If there had been some big deals, they would undoubtedly have involved big stars going from a lesser team to one of the already big players in the league. That wouldn’t have been good for anybody but the team that got that kind of player.
NBA commissioner David Stern gets a lot of criticism but he is doing a good job in attempting to level the playing field. The latest example is the large increase in financial penalties for those teams exceeding the salary cap. Even the Warriors, who were only slightly over the cap, had to make two deals, giving away players in exchange for “future draft considerations.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for extra draft picks down the road.
There are still myths in the NBA. One of them is that it’s important to have “dynasty” teams, though in the NFL and baseball, interest has grown with multiple winners of the Super Bowl and World Series.
Another is the idea that a league has to have a championship team in New York. Do you remember the last time the Knicks won the NBA championship? It was 1973. Even the Warriors have won one since then, in 1975.
Meanwhile, there’s another important change that needs to be made. Worried about the league getting too young, NBA owners voted a few years back to raise the minimum age at which a player could enter the league, but all this has accomplished is to create the “one and out” phenomenon in college basketball, where stars play one year, then turn pro.
What’s worse is that agents control this process. They sign up players in high school and pay them, then “assign” them to a specific school. I’m happy to say that schools in this area – Cal, Stanford, St. Mary’s, USF and Santa Clara – don’t have these players, to be best of my knowledge, anyway.
If you want to know how this process has corrupted college basketball, take a look at UCLA. Ben Howland built his reputation as a tough defensive coach, first at Pittsburgh, then in his early years at UCLA, but now he has a team of “stars” who pay no attention to him. They’re only interested in the offensive stats. They certainly have no interest in defense.
I’d like to see the NBA amend its rule to something like baseball has. A baseball player can enter the draft after high school and sign with a major league club. Usually, that means time in the minor leagues though for some, it’s an accelerated process; the National and American League’s “Rookie of the Year” winners last year were Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, 19 and 20, respectively.
If, however, a player chooses to go to a four-year college, he has to stay for three years before he’s eligible for the draft. There is a loophole: A player who goes to a junior college, even if he went first to a four-year college, can enter the draft after any year. Barry Zito used that loophole, transferring from USC to a junior college (shame on those of you who think he was moving up academically), so he could be drafted by the A’s.
College can be a great experience, as I can certainly attest, but it’s not for everybody. There’s no point in making a young man who really wants to do nothing but play basketball take up space that should be used by more academically-qualified students.
PET PEEVE: Those NBA teams which have taken nicknames that were appropriate in one area when they’ve moved to another area where they’re ridiculous. The Lakers nickname was a realistic one for a team playing in Minnesota, whose motto is “state of 10,000 lakes,” but has anybody seen lakes in Los Angeles? Even worse, “Jazz” was the perfect nickname for a team playing in New Orleans, but keeping the nickname while moving to Salt Lake City was ludicrous. Jazz in Utah? Give me a break.
THE WARRIORS still appear capable of making the playoffs but it’s unrealistic to think they can do any damage there because they have no identity. All season long, they’ve talked of how much better they could be when injured center Andrew Bogut came back. Perhaps, but Bogut can’t stay healthy and, given the fact that he’s middle-aged in athletic terms, it’s unlikely he ever will be.
I started watching the NBA when there were real giants in the middle: Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Nate Thurmond. Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was in the same class. Willis Reed and Walt Bellamy were not in that class but they were still much better than anybody in the current crop.
The game has evolved and the Warriors need to get their own identity without Bogut. That means playing tough team defense. If they don’t start doing that, they’ll make a quick exit from the playoffs.
HAVING SURVIVED the most overblown story of the year, his shoving of Allan Crabbe in the narrow win over USC, Mike Montgomery has the Cal Bears just behind the leaders in the Pac-12, with just three games remaining, all at Haas Pavilion.
The most amusing piece I read on the Crabbe incident was one by a writer who asked how readers would react if they’d heard an English professor had shoved one of his students. Oh, yeah, I remember those heated debates in English Lit over whether Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s works. I’m still amazed that the professor was able to keep his cool.
Meanwhile, Montgomery has his team winning, sometimes with offense, sometimes with defense. They blew out UCLA with a first half that gave them a 25-point lead, then played a gritty game against Oregon with both teams in the ‘40s and beat Oregon State with a last second shot by Justin Cobbs.
Earlier this year, I thought Montgomery lacked the talent to win the Pac-12 but the Bears are hanging in there. I’ve written before that Montgomery is the best coach I’ve watched on a regular basis since Pete Newell, and this season only reinforces my opinion.
Meanwhile, at Stanford, Johnny Dawkins has taken excellent individual talent and molded these players into a team that is tied for eighth in the Pac-12. Dawkins is an excellent recruiter but after awhile, when the results aren’t there, players tune out the coach trying to recruit them.
AS IT DOES every year, the Chinese New Year’s Parade in San Francisco last weekend brought back memories of the best day of my life, Feb. 25, 1967, when Nancy Jo McDaniel and I married in a small ceremony at Calgary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. Afterward, our wedding party had a small dinner at the Iron Horse on Maiden Lane. To get there, we had to cross the parade on Stockton Street but those marching in the parade graciously made room for us. They could see that it wasn’t the parade that was our chief interest!
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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