When the 49ers drafted Kaepernick in Round 2 of the 2011 NFL draft, most fans knew that this day would come, but it has come sooner than expected.
After Smith went down with a concussion during San Francisco's 24-24 tie with St. Louis, Kaepernick came in and looked the part of the franchise quarterback San Francisco envisioned when drafting him. With Kaepernick looking so good, this is shaping up to be quite the Wally Pipp and Lou Gherig situation.
Looking at Smith's career, it's ironic that he has lost the starting job at this point. Ever since being drafted with the No. 1 overall selection by the organization in the 2005 draft, he's been one of the most oft-criticized and maligned quarterbacks in the game.
For the vast majority of his career, his numbers have been disappointing for a supposed franchise QB and first-overall pick. Between injuries and inconsistent play, it appeared as though Smith was destined to be a bust.
This season has been a bit of a revelation for Smith, though. After boasting a highly efficient season in 2011, Smith has enjoyed a career year in 2012. Through nine games, Smith completed an incredible 70 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns to five interceptions.
There was a time when Alex Smith hitting the open market would have been prime fodder for Twitter timelines to be littered with jokes, but not now. If the 49ers make him available for trade this offseason, there should be plenty of teams that are willing to pay a good price to acquire his services.
Smith hasn't hit that elite level of quarterbacks yet; he will probably never command the attention or salary of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. However, he has shown that he can win. The 49ers went 13-3 last season with Smith at the helm and appeared to be well on their way to the playoffs with him starting this season before Kaepernick took over.
After proving all the doubters wrong and putting together the best season of his career, Smith can't be happy to have lost the starting job to the young Kaepernick.
With several teams in need of a quarterback, and the quarterbacks of the 2013 NFL draft class looking more and more questionable every week, Smith could be the most valuable quarterback available come the offseason.
There's no reason he shouldn't be starting somewhere in 2013.