Alex Smith didn't deserve to lose his job, but Colin Kaepernick capitalized on his chance to shine and forced the veteran out.
Smith isn't happy about these latest developments, and who can blame him?
He told CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco:
I mean, it sucks. I don't know what else to say...It stings the most because I really feel like there's something special going on here. You sacrifice and you invest so much time. Like I said, I really feel like I hadn't done anything but get a concussion to really to facilitate this. I feel like I was playing good football.
And he was.
Beating this dead horse one more time, Smith had put up Pro-Bowl numbers this year—especially during his last four quarters. We all know the stats by now: 25-of-27 for 304 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Then, lighting struck, and not in a good way for Smith.
He left the team's Week 10 game in the second quarter with a concussion, and the Kaepernick experience began in full earnest.
For a little while in that game, it looked like Kaepernick would play like most of us thought he would—tentative, nervous and a little wild. Then, as the fourth quarter began with the San Francisco 49ers down by 10 points, the youngster pulled himself and his team together to come back and ultimately tie the game.
Since then, Kaepernick has put together two eye-opening starts, winning both of them. In those two games, he completed 32-of-48 passes for 474 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Many casual fans look at the stat lines and say, "That doesn't look any different that what Smith can do."
But they're wrong.
When you dig a little deeper, it's clear Kaepernick brings a more explosive element to this offense than Smith.
Per ESPN Stats & Info:
Colin Kaepernick has six 30-plus yard pass plays this season on 74 attempts. Alex Smith has six 30-plus yard plays on 217 attempts. #niners— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 28, 2012
Plus, Kaepernick has managed to dodge pressure and avoid sacks far more expediently than Smith, who regularly takes sacks rather than try to force something that might result in a turnover.
Jim Harbaugh had to make this move.
It is the only logical decision anyone with access to the film Kaepernick's been putting together can make.
Fans that insist Harbaugh has somehow insulted Smith would be wise to remember that Smith was worse than mediocre before Harbaugh took him under his wing.
If the head coach—the man who made Smith into the NFL's No. 5-ranked passer in 2012—believes Kaepernick gives the 49ers a better chance to win than Smith, fans should give him the benefit of the doubt.
Furthermore, as much as the media and fans alike are sure this decision will divide the 49ers locker room, judging by what the actual players are saying, they're 100 percent on board with Kaepernick's promotion.
Via Maiocco, Moss told Kaepernick:
Ain't nothing to be mad about. Hey, you've been waiting on your chance to shine, and you shined, dog. . . Way to go! (Moss hits Kaepernick in the chest.) Proud! Man, smile! I'm talkin' about smile, bro. You had a heck of a game, man.
SI.com's Jim Trotter recently wrote a fascinating column detailing just how impressed the players are with their young gunslinger (I highly encourage you to read the whole column).
Vernon Davis—one of Smith's most valiant supporters throughout the years—said of Kaepernick:
The sky's the limit. He's a great player. He brings a lot to the game. He's one of those guys that makes the game so much more exciting. He's very confident...He knows that's the only way to take advantage of these opportunities, and when you look on his face it's as if he's been here for quite a long time.
As good as Smith has been for the 49ers this past year-and-a-half, Kaepernick is better.
The only player on the 49ers who doesn't know this is Smith, and good for him. He's a fighter—a warrior who has overcome more obstacles to get to this point than most know—and he should be upset.
Did Harbaugh make the right decision?
But don't cry for Smith.
The NFL is a bloody business, and as harsh as it is, injuries are part of the game. Smith isn't the first player to lose his position due to an injury—just ask Drew Bledsoe.
Harbaugh owes it to his team to start the best player, and Kaepernick is the best quarterback on the 49ers roster.