Why the 49ers Are Better off Starting Alex Smith Than Colin Kaepernick

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 11:  Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers leads teammates out onto the field before the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 21-19.   (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Many San Francisco 49ers fans are calling for Colin Kaepernick to become the starting quarterback after Week 4's breakout game against the New York Jets, but that's just crazy talk.

Fans aren't the only ones questioning whether or not Alex Smith deserves to be the team's starter, either.

USA Today, via News10.net, published an article on October 2, 2012 saying:

It makes everyone wonder if Kaepernick will get more plays should Smith continue to struggle. For his sake, Smith might be going through a mini-slump...If Smith can't build upon last year's breakout success, then he'll be out of excuses and likely out of a job as the 49ers' starting quarterback.

NFL Films guru Greg Cosell has some concerns about the 49ers offense, too. He went onto the radio (KNBR-AM’s Fitz and Brooks show) on Monday, October 1 to talk about the success the team had against the Jets with Kaepernick and said:

Now they are trying to manufacture offense rather than executing offense, and I don’t think that manufacturing offense in today’s NFL wins Super Bowls...The way they won yesterday might raise more questions than answers.

With all due respect to Cosell—one of the best in the business—has everyone forgotten that Smith is the man who has compiled a record of 17-5 since Jim Harbaugh showed up?

Sure, Smith threw his first pick in 249 attempts in Minnesota against the Vikings in Week 3 (h/t Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows), and then he struggled to hit his deep passes against the New York Jets last week—but he's not in a slump, mini or otherwise. 

Yes, Kaepernick has a stronger arm and could actually utilize the down-field weapons the team acquired this past offseason, and yes, he's much more athletic than Smith, but the 49ers aren't better off with him behind center at this point in his career. 

Here are the main reasons why Smith is still the right player to run the 49ers offense.


Consistent Ball Security

Since Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach at the beginning of the 2011 season, Smith has been the best quarterback in the NFL at taking care of the football. 

During that time, including the team's two playoff games, he's thrown for 27 touchdowns and only six interceptions in 626 attempts—an interception ratio of .96 interceptions for every 100 passes attempted. 

That's insanely good. 

As a comparison, Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 54 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 704 attempts during the same stretch—an interception ratio of 1.42 interceptions for every 100 passes. 

Given the way the 49ers play defense, and given their special-teams prowess, the best way to win games is by not turning the ball over. 

Speaking of winning...


Just Win Baby

I know that this slogan is usually reserved for the Oakland Raiders, and for those of you who absolutely hate the Raiders, I apologize. That said, Smith is a winner, and there's no reason to mess with success.

As previously mentioned, Smith's record since Harbaugh took over, including the playoffs, is 17-5.

You don't fix something that isn't broken, and the 49ers would be foolish to try and change their philosophy while they're running hot. 



I guarantee that nobody in the 49ers locker room thinks Kaepernick should start right now. In fact, I think you'd get a room full of laughter if you even made such a suggestion. 

Remember, when the players were locked out of team facilities last summer, Smith led "Camp Alex" at the University of San Jose. Many of the team's players showed up, and it was clear from the outset of last season that Smith was on top of the offense. 

Vernon Davis recently talked about his quarterback in an interview, via MercuryNews.com, saying: “Since I’ve been here with Alex, when I look into his eyes, I see determination. I see a guy who wants to succeed. He wants it bad.”

Everyone in the locker room respects the hell out of Smith, and he's their unquestioned leader. 

Bottom line.

What we know for sure right now is that the 49ers have a lesser version of Montana/Young brewing, and though Smith is the quarterback of the present for this team, Kaep is the bright future. Smith isn't in any danger of losing his starting gig any time soon, but given another year or two, Kaepernick will be a force to be reckoned with. 


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