Maiocco 1-on-1 with Alex Smith: Reliving the Saints playoff game
Alex Smith's final numbers as a 49er: 38-36-1, 59%, 14,280 passing yards, 81 TD, 63 INT, four rush TD. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Editor's note: The 49ers officially traded Alex Smith to the Chiefs Tuesday afternoon, the team announced via Twitter.
Alex Smith was a good 49er.
That is how Smith will be remembered after a tumultuous eight-year career with the 49ers, who selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft.
He was not Aaron Rodgers, who turned into an MVP and a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Green Bay Packers. But if the roles were reversed, there's no telling how Rodgers would have performed with the 49ers. And there's no telling if Rodgers would have wanted to remain with the organization when he could have left.
Smith had several opportunities to leave the 49ers. The first time, after two seasons wiped out by injuries, he accepted a dramatic pay cut. He said he wanted to remain with the 49ers because he felt as if there was unfinished business for him in San Francisco.
Remember that six-year, $57 million contract Smith signed as a rookie? Well, it turned out that he played eight seasons for $54.8 million. That's certainly not chump change, but it's also not an outrageous figure for a starting quarterback -- especially a No. 1 overall draft pick.
Smith will be remembered more for his final two seasons with the 49ers than for his up-and-mostly-down first six seasons. After the final game of the 2010 season, Smith wanted out. He wanted a fresh start.
Then, along came Jim Harbaugh who convinced Smith he could get his "fresh start" with the 49ers . . . with a return to the West Coast offense . . . with an offensive-minded head coach.
Smith responded with his best season.
Called a "game manager" in the middle of the 2011 season, Smith responded: "I could really care less, honestly. That is the honest truth. It feels good to be 8-1. I managed myself into a victory. That's all I could care about."
The 49ers won the NFC West with a 13-3 record. Smith took every meaningful snap.
His remarkable late-game heroics against the New Orleans Saints in an NFC playoff game on Jan. 14, 2012, will long be remembered as his shining moment.
[MAIOCCO: Alex Smith to Vernon Davis -- 'The Pass']
Smith scored on a 28-yard touchdown run to give the 49ers a lead with 2:11 remaining. Then, after a quick New Orleans touchdown, Smith led the 49ers back down the field and threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Vernon Davis to send the Candlestick Park crowd into a frenzy.
Smith was playing his best football in 2012 after returning to the 49ers following the team's "evaluation" of Peyton Manning.
And Smith's popularity as 49ers quarterback was at an all-time high when he left the field on Nov. 11 against the St. Louis Rams due to a concussion. But after Harbaugh saw Colin Kaepernick in action, Smith never regained his job.
Initially, Smith did not hide his initial bitterness, saying, "I feel like the only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion."
After that, Smith was nothing but a good teammate. He supported Colin Kaepernick, who called him "a great friend, a great mentor."
And with Smith's trade to the Kansas City Chiefs becoming official on Tuesday, so comes the end of Smith's tenure with the 49ers.
Say what you will about the body of his work, but Smith did it the right way and represented the 49ers well during the entirety of his eight seasons.
And that's how he should be remembered.