Last season Alex Smith started nine games for the San Francisco 49ers before suffering a concussion that would ultimately loose him his job to Colin Kaepernick. Jim Harbaugh made the switch to CK and the team ended up in the Super Bowl. This season, Smith is with the 9-1 Chiefs and Kaepernick has been struggling with the 6-4 49ers. Do Kaepernick’s struggles mean that Harbaugh made the wrong decision?
Kaepernick’s numbers aren’t horrible this year, but he certainly isn’t kissing his bicep nearly as much as you thought he would by now. He’s got 11 touchdowns, 7 picks, 1,802 passing yards, and 335 rushing yards. He’s also got four fumbles lost and has some of the worst 4th quarter stats in the league. Last year, Kaepernick proved himself to be an adequate passer with enough talent in his legs to more than compliment San Francisco’s running game. Heck, they were a few plays from a Super Bowl Championship largely due to the play of Kaepernick down the stretch.
What’s the difference this year? Is it all about the injury to Michael Crabtree? Well, if you ask the Atlanta Falcons, injuries to your #1 target can certainly punch a team in the gut. Are the 49ers that bad of a team this year that they can’t overcome missing Michael Crabtree in the beginning portion of the season? Granted, the 49ers are nowhere near in the position the Falcons are in record-wise but panic has been setting in since the team isn’t really a whole lot different looking but are underperforming so far in 2013. A good quarterback can make or break a team. By going to Kaepernick and releasing Alex Smith, the 49ers were saying that Kaepernick should be good enough to lead the team no matter who he has to throw to.
Perfect example of the difference a good quarterback makes over an inadequate one is the Kansas City Chiefs. They had a roster last year that was stacked with Pro Bowlers but were horrid at the quarterback position. Enter Alex Smith. While not the “light em up” quarterback like say, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, Smith has proven to be a tremendous upgrade to the Chiefs’ offense this season and their record surely reflects that. He’s got some similar stats to Kaepernick with 11 touchdowns, four interceptions but 2,149 passing yards. His four interceptions are his only turnovers as well.
Last season no one wanted to admit that Alex Smith was anything more than a game manager. This season, Colin Kaepernick seems to be having some difficulties managing games, particularly in the fourth quarters. Does this mean the 49ers made a mistake and would be more successful with Smith under center right now? There’s a big drop off for players who peak so early in their career. Kaepernick went to the Super Bowl after starting only seven games in the NFL. That means he’s got very little room for a learning curve now. Smith’s success in Kansas City wouldn’t necessarily have any bearing on determining if the 49ers made a mistake, but Kaepernick’s success sure does.