Alex Smith Deserves to Continue as San Francisco's Starting Quarterback. For Now.
By: The Football Girl | Posted: November 20, 2012
Anytime you have a backup quarterback put on a clinic like Colin Kaepernick did last night, the feeling should be one of sheer positivity. But Jim Harbaugh made things uh, complicated, by declaring that he would go with “the hot hand” next week at New Orleans. And even more complicated when he called the hands of both Kaepernick and Alex Smith “hot.”
Going with the hot hand is a strategy usually reserved for losing teams with no hope like the Cardinals, the Jaguars and what should include the Jets. The 49ers, a legitimate Super Bowl contender, should not be trudging in these muddied waters.
Alex Smith deserves to continue as the starting quarterback. For now.
Kaepernick’s performance last night was nothing short of stunning. He showed off his unique brand of arm strength and touch, and was veteran-like at second and third reads. More impressive was that Kaepernick did it all without a playbook relying on his scrambling ability, which is mostly what we had seen from the second-year quarterback in spot appearances. As Vernon Davis said in his postgame presser, Kaepernick looked like Tom Brady out there.
But it was still one game. We’ve gone down this road so many times. Matt Flynn and Kevin Kolb headline a long list of one-hit wonders. Just a couple of years ago in San Francisco, Troy Smith was anointed “the one” over Alex Smith after leading the 49ers to three fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Broncos. He flamed out two weeks later.
I believe Kaepernick is far more talented then any of the aforementioned guys, and that after sixty minutes last nights he went from the 49ers’ possible future to its definite one. But that doesn’t mean he should supplant Alex Smith immediately.
First off we need to put last night into context. As great as Kaepernick’s performance was, Aldon Smith and the defense put in an even better one. And, of course Vernon Davis, who has been in hibernation for about six weeks, is going to dote over anyone who gets him the ball. (Not that I fully disagree with his assessment that we saw some glimpses of Bradyness last night.)
But Kaerpernick also wound up with an oddly easy matchup. I’m not sure what happened to the Bears defense last night but they were uncharacteristically awful. They couldn’t tackle anyone. The 49ers running game was opened up, and the yards after catch opportunities for receivers were seemingly endless. San Francisco won all the physical matchups and Kaepernick benefitted.
Back to Smith, the Michael Myers of the NFL, the man has built enough capital to remain the starting quarterback unless he’s a liability. Smith’s leash is certainly shorter after last night, and maybe Harbaugh’s lather of the mouth will be a positive kick in the butt for him. Perhaps he’ll focus more on second reads and take more chances in general, which is what he’s always needed to do to go from slightly above average to very good.
Smith is not some two-bit quarterback who needs extreme measures of motivation, though. Remember, this is the same guy who was playing with completion percentage records just two weeks ago at Arizona. The same guy who threw the amazing pass to Vernon Davis in the 2011 NFC Divisional game to seal the victory. And the same guy who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Call him conservative or a game-manager but for the most part he’s the perfect companion to a defense that is arguably the best in the league. Smith can lead this team to the Super Bowl. He was a muffed punt away from likely doing so last year.
Smith does not have the talent of Kaepernick – that is clear. Kaepernick is the guy of the future, maybe as the starter next season. Maybe even in a few weeks. But let Alex Smith mess up first. He’s earned that right.