St. Louis rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein put an end to the game in overtime against the San Francisco 49ers with a beautiful 54-yard field goal to seal the deal. The kick certainly could have ended something else as well – Colin Kaepernick’s job as the starting quarterback in San Francisco.
If there was anything Alex Smith was great at, it was taking care of the ball incredibly well. He has only five interceptions on the season and very rarely turns the ball over. He’s an efficient quarterback who was completing 70% of his passes with a quarterback rating of 69.8. He was a game manager, nothing more. Colin Kaepernick without a question has more upside with his cannon of an arm, physical strength, and great speed. But today there were a couple big moments in the game that had Niner fans thinking “Smith wouldn’t of done that.”
The Rams scored twice in the final 3:04 of regulation, scoring a huge touchdown to make the game very interesting when rookie Janoris Jenkins returned an errant pitchout by Colin Kaepernick for a two yard score. This was not the only turnover Kaepernick had, as he also gave up a safety in the third quarter that cut the 49ers’ lead to 7-2 when he was penalized for intentional grounding passing out of the end zone while under pressure. The pass did not cross the line of scrimmage, therefore San Francisco was hit with a costly intentional grounding call.
With that being said, here is the big question – Would Alex Smith have committed those turnovers? Most would argue that he would have not, simply because last year through 16 games he threw just five interceptions and took care of the ball extremely well. And this year, through nine games, he had only thrown five interceptions and was on pace for another low turnover season. Kaepernick made a couple bonehead errors that were ultimately very costly, ones that I do not think Alex Smith would have made.
Kaepernick can do a number of things that Alex Smith is incapable of doing. For example, when Kaepernick took off for a 50 yard blast on a rollout – Alex can’t do that. Kaepernick is far from just a pocket passer – he is a great athlete that can extend plays and throw the ball down field. He is a dynamic player that can dominate a game, but today showed he still has a lot more to learn. He may be more turnover prone then Alex Smith, but that comes with his youth and inexperience. He will continue to learn more and more about the game and how to take care of the ball in crucial situations.
Kaepernick went 21/32 for 208 yards and tacked on 84 yards on the ground on 9 attempts with that amazing 50 yard takeoff late in the game. Despite a couple costly mistakes that Kaepernick committed, he had himself another good overall game.
However the quarterback controversy in San Francisco is going to continue. Now coach Harbaugh has a difficult decision to make. Do you go with the young athlete who has a significant amount of upside, but tends to make some mistakes that Alex Smith probably would not make?
Or do you go with the veteran Alex Smith, who did enough to go to the Super Bowl in last year’s NFC Championship game and takes care of the ball as good as anyone in the NFL?
I think Harbaugh will stick with Kaepernick for the remainder of the season, but do not be surprised if he chooses to play the veteran. Yet again, Harbaugh has a big decision to make.