With the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs having played in a preseason game this week, it is time to once again look at 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh’s decision to keep Colin Kaepernick as the starting quarterback and send Alex Smith to the Chiefs for two 2013 second-round draft picks.
From a skill-set perspective, both men are equal yet different. Both men can read defenses and throw the ball with velocity and accuracy. Here come the differences. Smith is mobile to a point, but obviously Kaepernick is a lot more mobile to the point some of the offensive plays are designed runs. Smith has the ability to run a no-huddle offense which is something Kaepernick is not proficient at doing. That was apparent in the most recent Super Bowl because when the Niners were down by several points, the offense was still huddling prior to the snap.
In comparing the results of 2011 when Smith finished the season and 2012 when Kaepernick finished that season, the results were not really different. Smith led San Francisco to the NFC Championship where they lost to the New York Giants because of special teams fumbles. Also, Smith did not benefit from one of the most abysmal performances by a wide receiving corps.
This past season, Kaepernick went to the Super Bowl and loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He made some bad throws, could not run a hurry-up offense and started the game slow, hence the lead. Eventually it caught up with him and the team, who had a much better receiving corps than Smith did the year before.
Remember that Kaepernick did not outplay Smith to get his starting job. Smith got a concussion from a hit. The 49ers fans have dealt with Smith and some of his poor play after he was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick. The fans wanted Kaepernick because he was more “fun” to watch.
But the organization was different prior to the York family ownership, general manager Trent Baalke and Harbaugh arriving. Instability within the organization and Smith having more offensive coordinators than years in the league stunted his growth as a professional quarterback. Kaepernick, however, was drafted by a stable organization with a dominant defense and stabilized offense.
There are potential negative consequences to Harbaugh’s decision to play Kaepernick over Smith. If any other player is injured, he may not disclose his injury to the coach and he might become a liability on the field for the sake of keeping his spot on the team.