Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick: Which QB Has the Edge in Key Categories?
A 7-2-1 team isn’t supposed to have a quarterback controversy, but second-year San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has played himself into exactly that with incumbent Alex Smith, according to NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus.
Kaepernick was brilliant in Smith’s absence last night. Like all players, each has his strengths and weaknesses. Smith has a larger body of work, which will earn him the benefit of the doubt in current comparisons between the two quarterbacks.
Here’s how they stack up to one another after Kaepernick’s first career start.
Kaepernick attempted some difficult throws on Monday night and finished with a QBR of 97.5 and passer rating of 133.1—both spectacular numbers. However, Smith gets the nod here with five interceptions on 217 attempts this season.
He’s also got an 18-of-19 passing game to his credit—a completion percentage that, if qualified, would have given him the NFL single-game record. Smith needed one more attempt to be considered for the record.
Arm Strength: Kaepernick
The 49ers offense looked different against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Perhaps, it was because San Francisco respected Chicago’s resume in terms of its ability to stop the run, but Kaepernick was allowed to fling the football down the field.
He had Vernon Davis open on a crossing route toward the left sideline but actually overthrew the speedy tight end downfield.
Alex Smith would prefer to avoid the “game manager” tag, but he got it for a reason. His role with the San Francisco 49ers has been to avoid turning the football over rather than making dynamic plays on a drive-by-drive basis.
Kaepernick’s decision-making skills weren’t fully revealed on Monday night because the 49ers were front-running the entire game. He wasn’t put into high-pressure situations where he was forced to move the football on a potentially game-winning drive—in the playoffs—like Smith.
Smith’s seniority wins him this category.
This one is no contest.
Alex Smith is mobile, but Colin Kaepernick is fast. Smith has rushed 29 times for 134 yards (4.6 average) this season. Kaepernick has rushed 25 times for 189 yards (7.6 average) and three touchdowns this year.
Pocket Presence: Smith
Smith’s resume also wins this category for him. Both quarterbacks get the benefit of the best defense in the NFL putting them in position to make them comfortable in the pocket by virtue of playing with a lead more often than not.
Kaepernick didn’t face a consistent pass rush from the Chicago Bears in his only career NFL start to date, earning him an incomplete grade in the pocket-presence category.
While he deserves to get more opportunities to play after carving up the opportunistic and impressive Bears defense, Kaepernick can’t edge Smith in pocket presence after one game.
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