I always said that a reporter can be a fan of the team, yet call it like they see it. Well David Newton did exactly that, and came down on Smitty's side on this one. Yeah, many of us have said that the FO could have handled this situation better, and some have basically given the excuse that G-man was just being honest, and that he didn't know that the reporter was going to ask him that question (or something to that effect). Well, David Newton's contention is that if G-man and company were thinking these thoughts, they should have communicated with Smith well beforehand:
This is a business, but even in business there is room for common decency. If general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera had questions about whether Smith could continue as the team's No. 1 receiver -- or No. 2 or 3 -- they should have discussed it with him during his exit meeting immediately after the season.
Or at worst, bring him in once they began considering options.
I know that I hadn't thought about the exit interview angle, but it does make sense considering what Smitty has contributed to the team for so many years. And, no, you can't "hide" your intentions behind the guise of "evaluations" when you're dealing with a player who has given so much to the organization.
Newton also seemed to suggest that the script was flipped on Smitty (in what comes down to a relatively few weeks).
Remember what Rivera and others said about him as he attempted to come back from a late-season knee injury to play against San Francisco in the playoffs? Let me refresh you:
- Rivera: "He works very hard at his craft. That's why he plays at such a high level continually. He's a great example for our young guys in how to practice hard. Steve, again, is still the big vocal point of who we are. When you put the tape on, you still see people matching [defensive backs] on him. You still see teams rolling coverage toward him."
- Offensive coordinator Mike Shula: "You lose a guy like Steve, it is a big concern because he is such a warrior on game day and a productive player and presents a lot of problems for the defense. Obviously, he gives you a playmaker, but he gives you good looks in other areas to make other guys play better."
- Tight end Greg Olsen: "He really sets the coverage for us when Steve's out there. It's important. He's our main guy."
In other words, Smith deserves better than he's getting now.
Within Newton's words, and perhaps what has been lost among many, is that Smitty is a very important part of the veteran leadership, and that voice really can't be replaced, and in a way (perhaps a small way in some eyes) makes up for his relative diminishing impact on the field.
On an off note, I still think Smitty has a viable game, even with a "lost step". I think there is something to Eric Davis' assertion that the offense isn't being run through Smitty, even though Smitty can still get behind defenses and is still a play-maker after all these years. Everyone agrees that he can still get it done in the slot, and should have been in the slot a couple of years ago. Anyway...
Maybe that's another reason Smith was so emotional on Wednesday. When Gross told Smith by phone he was retiring, Gross said, "What an unbelievable feeling it is to go out playing for one team and knowing that it was my choice." Words that surely reminded Smith of the way he wants to go out.
"I think it matters to him," Gross said.
Newton ends his article by basically suggesting that it's past time for G-man to stop leaving Smith dangling like an autumn leave hanging on, blowing in the wind.
But to leave the player speculating seems harsh.
And not just any player, but one that has meant what Smith has to the organization.
He deserves better