Smith has already proven he can lead San Francisco in January. Now all that's left to do is maintain patience.
But according to 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley via a radio interview with 95.7 The Game on Tuesday, Smith is "itching to play":
He wants to play. He made his feelings known yesterday with the comments that he made. He's itching to play, and he feels he should be out there, but it's the coach's decision. That's the way he's handling it...I know it's eating him up inside, but I know Alex, the kind of man he is, the kind of character he has, and he wants to see the team win. But he wants to be out there on the field. - per Brad Gagnon
Although you, I nor anyone else can blame Smith for being antsy and wanting his job back after returning from a concussion, patience is the only thing that will ultimately allow him to earn back his status as a starter.
Like Staley mentioned, it's a coach's decision, and one that can only be influenced by Kaepernick's play on Sunday.
Smith has sat out the past two games for the 49ers after suffering a concussion in Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams. Head coach Jim Harbaugh went with Kaepernick in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears, and was so impressed by his performance on Monday Night Football that he named him the starter again for Week 12's road game against New Orleans, deciding to go with the hot hand.
Two weeks and two strong performances later, Kaepernick looks to be Harbaugh's No. 1 option under center. But don't expect things to remain the way they are now.
Through eight-and-a-half games this season, Smith has completed 70 percent of his passes for more than 1,700 yards, 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions. His 104.3 passer rating is also the best of his career. Sure, Kaepernick's numbers have been steady as well, but he lacks the big-game experience that Smith boasts.
Will Alex Smith win back his starting job before the end of 2012?
Why is that important?
The time will come when Kaepernick struggles, like with any NFL quarterback, and when it does Harbaugh will realize that his best bet is to ride the experienced arm of Alex Smith.
After all, Smith is the signal-caller that led Harbaugh and the Niners to the NFC Championship Game last January. And during that run Smith accounted for six touchdowns and only one turnover in two big-time playoff games against the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants.
With San Francisco's defense and special teams playing lights out in 2012, why would Harbaugh risk a shot at winning a championship by calling on an inexperienced passer to lead his offense?
Alex Smith's patience has turned him into a remarkably efficient passer over the last two seasons, and it will earn him back his starting job by season's end as well.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.