Jim Harbaugh: Niners never chased Peyton Manning

Now that the 49ers have gone all in with Alex Smith, coach Jim Harbaugh took the time to dismiss a popular notion of who he supposedly wanted under center.

While addressing reporters Wednesday, Harbaugh stated the team was never seriously interested in signing then-free agent quarterback Peyton Manning this offseason, calling it an “erroneous perception” that is “silly and phony.”

Harbaugh went on to praise the incumbent Smith, who appeared to have one foot out the door despite reaching the NFC Championship Game in 2011.

“I’ve said it all along, Alex Smith has been our quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no scenario other than Alex choosing to sign with another team that we would have considered him not as our quarterback. It’s time to set the record straight.

“Alex Smith is our quarterback, was our quarterback and (we) had every intention of always bringing him back.”

During the peak of ‘Manning Watch’ (ugh … the memories), the 49ers swooped in late as a darkhorse candidate for the Hall of Fame signal-caller. The flames were only fanned further when Harbaugh and a contingent of team officials flew out to Duke University to watch Manning throw and go through drills.

Harbaugh insists it was just San Fran doing its due diligence, and nothing was going to come of it.

“Were we out there seeing, evaluating if we could have them both? Heck yeah,” Harbaugh said. “You evaluate that, you eliminate the possibility. We would not have given any player 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. You don’t have to keep reporting the silliness or phoniness.

“There was interest (in Manning) and we evaluated it, pursued it, further evaluated it and there was conversations. But there was nothing said to Alex that was not said to Peyton Manning or in house here, on the record or off the record. Both those young men knew exactly what our intentions were.”

Well said, Jim … even if you are backtracking a bit. It’s admirable to stand behind Smith, but let’s not pretend you’d take a reclamation project over one of the best to ever play the game. Since it’s now a moot point, however, perhaps we should just leave it at that.

Zack Kelberman
An award-winning sportswriter, reporter and blogger, Zack currently serves as the Miami Dolphins live correspondent and Team Stream curator for Bleacher Report. He's also a freelance NFL writer and the founder/editor-in-chief of Helmet2Helmet. His work has appeared on media outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, MSN.com, FanSided.com, and About.com. Zack can be reached on Twitter (@ZackKelberman) or via email (zpkelb@gmail.com).