Colin Kaepernick: Does Alex Smith Need to Look over His Shoulder?

Jesse ReedCorrespondent INovember 19, 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

What's that sound? 

Oh, never mind. It's just the sound of Alex Smith's starting gig taking its last breath. 

The Colin Kaepernick era has officially begun for the San Francisco 49ers

Never mind that Smith currently ranks as the NFL's No. 3 quarterback with a 104.1 passer rating, right behind Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers

Never mind that Smith's record since Jim Harbaugh took over is 19-5-1. 

Never mind that Smith has thrown 30 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions during that time. 

Kaepernick can do all that and more. 

Blessed with a rocket for an arm and a 4.53-second 40-yard dash time, Kaepernick can make defenses pay every single play. 

On plays when Smith would take a sack rather than try to force a pass into coverage, Kaepernick can avoid the pressure and either run the ball for a big gain or make a huge play downfield to one of the 49ers many talented receivers.

One of the things I was worried about before the season began with this young quarterback is that we didn't know whether or not he would be as careful with the football as Smith—who has been one of the best in the NFL since the beginning of 2011.

So far, Kaepernick has proven to me that he's capable of playing with the same kind of care and precision Smith has showed, but his upside is so much higher than Smith's. 

Sure, he needs to work on his touch. Sure, he is raw. But there isn't a throw he can't make, and the 49ers offense is significantly more dynamic with him behind center. 

Case in point: Vernon Davis. 

Davis hasn't been as involved in the passing game as I'm sure he'd like, and I know I'd like, for the better part of a month. He hasn't caught a touchdown pass since Week 3.

In his first career start, Kaepernick found Davis four times in the first quarter, including a three-yard touchdown pass. Kaepernick trusts his arm more than Smith does, and he's firing the ball into tighter spots than Smith feels comfortable doing. 

He's making the same checks at the line of scrimmage that we've seen from Smith the past couple of years, too. One play in particular that stands out to me from this game came in the first quarter: Kaepernick saw Randy Moss on an island on the left side of the field, changed the play and threw it right on the money for a first down. 

As of this moment, with 12:40 remaining in the second half on Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears, Kaepernick has hit on 9-of-11 passes for 158 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions.

Against. The. Bears.

Yes, Smith has been a winning quarterback since Harbaugh joined the franchise, but Kaepernick has what it takes to make the 49ers offense into one of the most feared units in the NFL.


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