News broke late Wednesday night that Colin Kaepernick will be receiving the first-team reps at quarterback this week. After Kaepernick and Alex Smith met with coach Jim Harbaugh and he informed them of this decision, the news soon spread that this move was not health-related, and eyebrows that were already raised inched ever higher. Considering all the turmoil Smith, Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers have gone through, is this a smart move for the team? Yes, it is.
No one will deny that Smith has performed admirably the past one and a half seasons, and that the 49ers have won a lot of games, but can you really say they have won because of him in most of those instances? They have the NFL’s best defense for a second year in a row. They have Frank Gore. They have Vernon Davis. They have Michael Crabtree. Randy Moss and Mario Manningham round out the receiving core, and let’s not forget their stud offensive line. Smith just has to go in there and not suck and the 49ers will win most weeks, but rarely do they win because of him.
Colin Kaepernick is the future of the 49ers’ franchise and everyone has known this since the day he was drafted. Are the 49ers taking an unnecessary risk by switching quarterbacks at this point of the season? No. Is this a dangerous move as some are suggesting? Again, no it is not.
Smith has been benched before and has bounced back; he is the consummate professional and knows how to handle situations like these simply because they aren’t new to him anymore, so this situation won’t be any different for him. He’ll suck it up and be ready to play if he gets healthy and if the 49ers feel he can do a better job than Kaepernick can on any given Sunday. Also, it’s important to remember that the 49ers offense will prepare for this Sunday’s matchup with the same professionalism and dedication they would regardless of whether Smith or Kaepernick is the starter, so they will be ready to go no matter what.
More to the point though, the 49ers know they can cut ties with Smith this offseason if they choose, so this is the perfect time to audition Kaepernick for the starting job. And make no mistake, this is exactly what will happen this Sunday if Kaepernick ends up starting (remember he is not guaranteed to be the starter just because he is getting first-team reps). Monday’s stellar performance against the Chicago Bears was an eye-opener that was born out of necessity; now the 49ers’ brass want to see if he can take the bull by the horns or not.
If the 49ers win in New Orleans on Sunday with Kaepernick at the helm—especially if they do so convincingly—you can put a fork in Smith because he will be cut after this season, as there is no way the 49ers will continue to keep his salary on the books to be a backup quarterback.