San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is faced with one difficult decision :Start Alex Smith at quarterback, or sophomore Colin Kaepernick? Luckily for coach Harbaugh, it’s looking like one of those win win decisions. So who’s the better fit to finish off the season for the 49ers? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each quarterback.
Alex Smith’s biggest upside is his 8 years of NFL experience. The downside is he has been far from elite in those 8 seasons. Smith has only led San Francisco to the playoffs once, but the team’s lack of success isn’t entirely his fault. The 49ers have had 7 different offensive coordinators in the past 8 years and have undergone 3 changes at head coaches. Smith finally hit his stride with coach Harbaugh and led San Francisco to a 13-3 record and an appearance in the NFC Championship game where they lost to the New York Giants. He looked to be on his way to another solid season this year completing 70% of his passes for over 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he lost his starting duties after being knocked out of a game against the St. Louis Rams with a concussion.
In only his second season in the NFL, Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have nearly as much experience as Smith –but when he has been on the field, he’s looked good. Since taking over for Smith in St. Louis, Kaepernick has completed 66.15% of his passes for 591 yards and has 5 touchdowns under his belt (3 passing, 2 rushing). He also held his own against the Chicago Bears‘ #1 ranked defense by throwing 2 touchdowns with no interceptions for 243 yards in a blowout victory.
It seems silly to suggest starting a sophomore quarterback over an 8 year veteran, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Smith has looked good under coach Harbaugh, but in his 8 years in San Francisco, he has only played 2 full seasons in a career that has been plagued with injuries. Kaepernick’s running abilities adds a new dimension to San Francisco’s offense and should work nicely with running back Frank Gore. But he has also proven himself to be a skilled passer.
The 49ers were already on the fence about bringing Smith back for the season and looked to be making a play for Peyton Manning –but when Manning ended up in Denver, they decided to stick with Smith. Maybe it’s time for San Francisco to finally make a change at quarterback.