It’s being widely reported that San Francisco 49ers head coach has informed quarterback Alex Smith that he will not be starting in week 12 against the New Orleans Saints, and instead backup Colin Kaepernick will get his second start of the season.
Probably the most shocking thing about this entire situation is that head coach Jim Harbaugh has reported that the move was not health related. Smith had been recovering from a concussion, and so it would have been easy to use the veil of player safety for this move, but instead Harbaugh just put it on the table and told it like it was.
But is this a smart move? I say yes. Smith is a nice player, but when you watch him play, I always got the impression that the 49ers were winning in spite of him. The reality is this team has one of the best defenses in the league, one of the best running attacks in the game, and a top flight set of special teams units. Having said all that, it gives the team the opportunity to tinker a little and find the right guy.
Personally, I see Kaepernick as a much more dynamic player not only running the ball but also moving the ball through the air. He throws with excellent velocity, puts the ball on time and throws a ball that’s easy to catch. He’s also a very confident young man who appears to inspire confidence in his teammates. It can never be understated how important confidence is in a quarterback and I’ve never felt like Smith was a terribly confident player.
A few important points about all this. A case like this is not unprecedented with the 49ers franchise. Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana was benched on more than one occasion during his career. Also, this is Harbaugh’s team and his players are firmly in his camp when it comes to personnel decisions so should Kaepernick struggle and Smith gets put back in, the team will roll with it and all continue to work hard. In other words, the potential harm of this move is farm less significant than the potential benefit of it. Another potential angle to all this is that there could be that Harbaugh and the 49ers think Kaepernick is the long term answer, and from the looks of Smith’s contract this offseason would be a perfect year to cut him loose from a fiscal point of view, so it makes sense to see what they have, especially when the rest of the team can hold down the fort while they do.
All in all I think this is a great move to make right now. The 49ers understand how good their team is, and so there’s no harm in tweaking a little to make it better. And against a Saints team that struggles on defense but can put up points in a hurry, having a dynamic guy like Kaepernick in there makes even more sense. Harbaugh is a good coach and I will trust him with this move until the results on the field tell me otherwise.
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