This is No. 5 on Golden Gate Sports’ list of the Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012. For a quick reminder, please read No. 6.
In 2011, Alex Smith led the 49ers’ to the NFC championship game and went 13-3 in the regular season. He was an incredibly efficient quarterback who took care of the ball very well. Head coach Jim Harbaugh had him working like a machine, and mistakes were a rarity.
In Week 10 of this season, about midway through the game, Smith suffered a head injury that ended up costing him his starting job. He was hit hard on a play and ended up suffering a concussion that sidelined him for the rest of the game.
Smith’s concussion quickly brought in backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick played a decent overall game, passing for 117 yards on 11-for-17 in the air and no touchdowns. The game ended up going into overtime and ultimately resulted in a rare tie against the Rams.
The next week, they were up against a very hot Bears team. Unfortunately, starting quarterbacks on both teams were injured and would not play. This brought another start for Kaepernick. This was the game that ultimately sidelined Smith even when he wasn’t injured.
Colin Kaepernick exploded on Monday Night Football in front of America against one of the leagues top defenses on his first career start in the NFL. He went 16-for-23 to compile 243 yards in the air with two touchdowns as well. He controlled the game like a veteran and was making deep passes down the field that Smith never incorporated in his game. He had the 49er’ offense looking incredibly dynamic and explosive and almost seemed uncontainable. It seemed as Kaepernick was able to do everything Smith did in his game, but even more.
This situation led to a quarterback controversy in San Francisco, as coach Harbaugh was thrilled and excited about Kaepernick and chose to keep him as the team’s starter over Smith even when Smith was healthy and ready to go.
Many people did not agree with the change Harbaugh made because they thought he was trying to fix something that was never broken. Then, there were pundits that agreed with the change at the quarterback position because they thought Kaepernick could bring more to the table with his running ability and “big play” potential.
Kaepernick has started the last six games beginning from his amazing start in Chicago and is 4-2 in that span. He has only turned the ball over five times thus far, which is key because ball security defined Smith as a quarterback. During that six-gme span, Kaepernick has thrown for 1538 yards and eight touchdown passes.
Kaepernick’s abilities clearly appeal to Harbaugh, and the second-year coach obviously sees something in his game that he doesn’t see in Smith’s. Kaepernick certainly has more upside with his youth, speed, and arm strength. However Smith did enough last year to nearly go to the Superbowl, so why take him out now? Kaepernick will be around for a while and Harbaugh will have the opportunity to start him in the future, why now?
At this point for the 49ers anything under a Superbowl victory will be a disappointment If Kaepernick cannot lead them to a Superbowl and bring the trophy back to San Francisco, questions will fly all over the place about Harbaugh’s gutsy move midway through the season.
Kaepernick has looked great so far, and if he does continue to do what he’s done, maybe Harbaugh made a genius move.
Stay tuned as we continue our countdown on December 27th with No. 4 on our Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012.