Here is a link to my Sunday column about Aldon Smith. The full text runs below:
The 49ers are struggling to regain the moral high ground. Sadly, they surrendered it a while back. Everyone knows that. But what they did Friday — they booted Aldon Smith out the door — is a necessary first step.
No matter what anyone says, the 49ers did the right and proper thing releasing Smith. Although they could — probably should — have deleted him from the team last season or the season before or any number of times, they get credit for doing the right thing now. For rejecting Smith and his irresponsibility, his self-destructiveness and his just plain crummy behavior.
In the latest incident, Smith was arrested for a suspected DUI, hit-and-run and vandalism — bad stuff. It was the fifth time he had run-ins with the law — bad stuff. In the past, the Niners stood by him. Made things easy on him. Made him face none of the implications of his actions. After he got arrested for a DUI in 2013, he posted bail, participated in practice the same day, and played in the very next game — bad stuff. Very bad stuff. Bad for Smith. Bad look for the 49ers.
Some people blame then-coach Jim Harbaugh for allowing Smith to skate past trouble. Who knows? Right now, who cares? The Niners aren’t letting Smith skate any more. They confiscated his skates, not to mention his shoulder pads, uniform, cleats and his key to the practice facility.
The Niners leadership — Jed York, Trent Baalke and Jim Tomsula — acted quickly, clearly and decisively. They get praise for all that. This is the first crisis of Tomsula’s coaching tenure and, as far as anyone can tell, he handled it like a champ.
In the past, when Ray McDonald — remember him? — got in trouble and the Niners still needed him, they kept talking about “due process.” They would let the process play out. It sure seemed they were hiding behind due process because they wanted to delay things, wanted the player to play.
With Smith, they don’t care about due process anymore — they finally didn’t care about due process with McDonald, either. Instead of due process, they have reduced things to a simple “do,” as in do the right thing. Do.
Tomsula was emotional on the issue of Smith at his Friday press conference. Tomsula is an emotional man:
“Although he won’t be playing football for the San Francisco 49ers, he will be supported and helped and he will not have to walk this path alone. That comes from our ownership down. He will not have to walk this path alone. We’re not worried about football. It has nothing to do with football. And although Aldon will not be playing football here, we will be supporting him. He will not be alone.”
Those are fine and worthy sentiments. And although Tomsula seems like a caring man, his lovely thoughts were totally off the point. Aldon Smith no longer is Tomsula’s problem or the 49ers’ problem or your problem. Aldon Smith is out. He can get help from the Niners or he can get help on his own. Or he can refuse to get help. But he is a footnote to this season and he is not a part of the team.
He brought all this on himself. Many times over. He certainly deserves help, but he does not deserve a second chance in Santa Clara — or is it a sixth chance?
He let the team down. That is the key point. Bottom line. He let his teammates down. The Niners really needed him rushing the edge on passing downs. And now they don’t have him.
I’ll tell you something else. The 49ers did the best thing for Smith when they cut him. Finally, he has to face up to his actions. Take control of his life, if he can. Getting cut is the help Smith needs.
Enough about him.
Where does the lack of Smith leave the Niners on defense? Well, it’s not just the lack of this Smith. It’s the lack of that other Smith — Justin. And the lack of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland. The 49ers have lacks.
But Aaron Lynch is a superior outside linebacker, was superior to Aldon Smith last season. And Ahmad Brooks, who’s had his own problems, is in better shape and appears motivated, although why he had appeared unmotivated is anyone’s guess. Linebacker Eli Harold, a third-round draft pick, looks good in training camp, for whatever that’s worth. And NaVorro Bowman is back — actually seems fast and healthy.
So, there are players available, although it’s risky to say the 49ers defense still is elite. The offense never was elite, and it has lost Frank Gore and Anthony Davis.
Tomsula is trying to keep everything together with his good cheer and kind heart and his, apparent, high moral standards. Good for him. It’s just that recapturing the high moral ground is different from making a good football team.
Doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee success. Life is cruel that way.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.