One sure thing on which Alex Smith's supporters and detractors still agree: He's no Joe Montana.
Smith does, however, have things in common with Montana other than having worn a 49ers uniform. Like Montana, Smith was exiled from San Francisco, each a runner-up in a tug-of-war with a teammate/rival whose career was unmistakably ascending. And Smith, like Montana before him, has gone on to be the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs.
If the 2013 NFL regular-season schedule included 49ers vs. Chiefs, the hype would be considerable and a good portion of it would emit the scent of authenticity. As it is, though, Friday night's game at Arrowhead Stadium will be merely an exhibition. Preseason, the NFL calls it, code for Meaningless. With Smith and Colin Kaepernick, who so boldly took the 49ers' starting quarterback job last November and came agonizingly close to a Super Bowl title in February, unlikely to play more than a series or two, anyone promoting the matchup as anything more than idle curiosity has a terribly convoluted sense of drama.
Still, Smith, who quarterbacked the 49ers to an NFC championship game after the team's eight-year hiatus from the postseason and who, statistically at least, was among the NFL's best before being benched last year, is now part of a curious history. For 12 of 13 years, from 1988-2000, the Chiefs had an ex-49er as a starting quarterback. Smith, resurrecting that long-dormant trend, is now the fifth former 49ers QB to be given the reins of K.C.'s offense.
How did the previous four fare? Glad you asked.
Steve DeBerg's three seasons with the 49ers (1978-80) included leading the NFL in passes and completions in Bill Walsh's debut season as SF's head coach in 1979, when the team finished 2-14. In 1980 DeBerg was supplanted by Montana, and the rest is history, to coin a phrase. In four seasons with the Chiefs (1988-91), DeBerg was 32-22-1 as a starter, including 1-2 in the postseason.