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Colin Kaepernick: Should QB Have Bigger Role in San Francisco 49ers Offense?

Colin Kaepernick rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown against the Jets on Sunday.
Colin Kaepernick rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown against the Jets on Sunday.Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Joseph AkeleyAnalyst IOctober 2, 2012

Sometimes, I feel like we all undervalue what Alex Smith means to the San Francisco 49ers.

He's certainly not a top-five quarterback in the NFL, and he had a mediocre game in San Francisco's 34-0 victory against the New York Jets on Sunday.

However, he once again didn't turn the ball over.

To put it simply, Smith doesn't give games away.

Colin Kaepernick has elite speed for a quarterback and a strong arm. I'm sure his touchdown run and nearly completed bomb to Randy Moss made 49ers fans salivate.

But as far as we know, Kaepernick doesn't know the intricacies of the offense like Smith does. And from what I've seen in the preseason and read about from training camp reports, Kaepernick has some accuracy issues to iron out.

There's no question that Smith has his share of accuracy issues as well. But Smith's command of the offense should not be overlooked.

How quickly Smith detractors forget that in his last 20 regular-season starts, the former No. 1 overall pick is 16-4. He's only thrown six interceptions in those 20 games.

I don't care how conservative the offensive play-calling is perceived to be, that's still remarkable ball security, and it's a huge reason why the 49ers are one of the best teams in the league.

Smith has averaged about seven yards per attempt over the last two seasons, which is a slightly below-average number, but it's more than enough for the 49ers to win games with their running game and defense.

If Kaepernick was granted considerably more playing time, which it seems many 49ers fans want, I speculate that San Francisco would see a spike in turnovers.

Quarterbacks without much experience tend to turn the ball over, and it would be hard to believe that Kaepernick is immune to this.

But with Kaepernick, the 49ers would generate more big plays, thus the increase in turnovers would be negated by more offensive touchdowns, right?

Not exactly.

Sure, an increase in playing time for Kaepernick would make the offense more dangerous because of his speed, but it's not like he's the first dual-threat quarterback in NFL history. Many of those before him have flamed out quickly. All the measurables in the world don't guarantee that a quarterback can consistently drive his team down the field.

All we know at this point is that the Jets had no answer for Kaepernick on three running plays. It's possible that the Jets were simply unprepared for him and the element of surprise was the biggest reason why he was successful.

Even so, I'm sure Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman have several more tricks up their sleeves involving Kaepernick behind center.  

That's why I think the 49ers should use Kaepernick like they did against the Jets for the rest of the season. Not only can he provide a boost, like 50 rushing yards and a touchdown, to the 49ers offense, but he can also gain valuable experience if San Francisco wants to pull the plug on the Smith project after this year.

More importantly, as long as Kaepernick is used sparingly, he'll be less likely to make a big mistake and give the game away, and he'll be more likely to surprise opposing defenses.

The 49ers' only missing ingredient from last year's team that came ever so close to a Super Bowl appearance was big plays on offense. Just as a little salt can make all the difference on a perfectly cooked steak, the 49ers need just a sprinkle of Kaepernick to get them over the hump—but a little too much could ruin the flavor.

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