If you pay any attention to the NFL, you know that Alex Smith has had an interesting career to say the least.
The former first overall draft pick from the 2005 draft out of Utah had a pretty bum-like start to his career for the first six years, only to blossom in 2011 under the tutelage of newly-appointed head coach Jim Harbaugh. Smith had his best year statistically, throwing for 3,100 yards along with 17 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
The big question coming into 2012 was if Smith was a one-year wonder, or if there was substance behind this marvelous turnaround. The year started off well for San Francisco, as they have tallied a 7-2-1 record through ten weeks of the season. The most recent win for the 49ers however, came from the second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In a Monday night domination of the Chicago Bears, Kaepernick threw for 243 yards two touchdowns and zero interceptions, also completing 70% of his passes; all this in just his first NFL start. Although Smith hasn't done a particularly bad job so far this year, Harbaugh said he would go with the guy who had the hot hand, and after his Monday night performance, it's hard to get much hotter than Kaepernick's.
Against a stiff Bears defense, Kaepernick seemed poised and composed in the pocket, and only took one sack from the fearsome front seven of Chicago. Kaepernick has the unique ability to become slippery when surrounded with defenders; his quickness allows him to scurry away from would-be tacklers and move the chains.
Not only is Kaepernick a good runner, but he showed impressive delivery skills when it came to passing. The ball comes quickly off his hand like a rocket launcher, and while I'm not comparing him to the current elite bombers such as Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, he has shown incredible potential. It is a good scenario for Kaepernick as well, as he's coming into a situation with a star-studded receiving core, the strongest backfield in the NFL, and arguably the best defense in the league. He will not have to win games on his own merit just yet, and will have time to develop and grow as a starter in the NFL. Kaepernick is still young and will greatly benefit from the pieces around him.
To me, Colin Kaepernick should have been made the starter even before Smith's magical 2011 campaign. Granted, an NFC Championship is nothing to scoff at, and major kudos to Alex Smith, but I see Kaepernick as the better quarterback overall. The question as to whether Smith is a good quarterback or a game-manager is still up for debate, but personally I think Kaepernick is a better selection in either case.
As I mentioned before, Kaepernick has a very sound, fundamental way of throwing the ball. He has the treasured ability to not only throw an accurate ball, but to also throw the ball downfield. I sort of think of him as an RG3-type player, just not as elite athletically. This is not to say that Kapernick will become one of the rising elite when it comes to young guns in this league, but stranger things have happened. Whether it was Emmitt Smith playing for the Cardinals, Barry Sanders and Jim Brown's early retirements, or Chan Gailey still having a job, stranger things have happened, but I digress.
I am not a huge fan of Harbaugh, but I think he got this one right. The 49ers have a strong team already, and I think Kaepernick can open doors for them that Smith never could. Whether they decide to keep Alex Smith on the roster come 2013 or trade/release him, he will do well for himself (yes, it could happen; the coaching staff really likes third stringer Scott Tolzien and he has impressed in preseason). I do think Smith has some talent and his numbers are not just the product of a good systematic fit, but I don't know how much of a market there'll be for him. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.
For now, Kaepernick is the starter and I am excited to see what he will do in the NFL this season.