As already noted, Alex Smith was always going to come back to the San Francisco 49ers. That doesn't necessarily mean that there wasn't an actual chance that Peyton Manning was coming to San Francisco, it means that, in lieu of Manning, there was never any real chance of Smith ending up on another team while Manning plays for someone other than the 49ers.
There was no rock and there was no hard place - just Alex Smith completely and utterly within the 49ers' grasp whether he liked it or not.
It helps that he does like it, quite a bit. His contract is pretty team-friendly, with some decent coin coming his way over the next couple years, which bring to light questions of Colin Kaepernick. Most assumed that Kaepernick would be starting by 2013, whether that meant he'd already have a year under his belt as the starter in 2012 or not.
But what if Smith has a monster year, and then improves on it? What if he becomes that franchise quarterback that everyone wants him to be? Then everyone will forget about Kaepernick, and also Josh Johnson. And Scott Tolzien. And you know what? That's just fine. Folks will talk about the fact that the 49ers have invested in Kaepernick, and they should ultimately commit to him, regardless.
Remember, Kaepernick only cost the 49ers a second-, fourth- and fifth-round pick. It didn't cost a first, while Smith cost them the first overall pick in the 2005 draft. Sure, it took seven years to start seeing any kind of return on their investment, but if it's a return and it's worth waiting for, why throw that away for Kaepernick? Maybe they'll get some sort of trade value for him, but in the end, if Smith can pay off, then we can handle Kaepernick being a wasted pick and lot him in with Chilo Rachal and Kentwan Balmer.
It's probably safe to say that 49ers fans would love nothing more than for Smith to lead them to the Super Bowl. It would be better with Smith than it would be for Kaepernick, and any fan who says different is probably lying. It's vindication - good for the soul, and of course, good for the sports writer. Smith has been eternally mocked by the fans and beaten up more than most quarterbacks in the league, but if he builds on 2011, that will all be forgotten.