Colin Kaepernick vs. Alex Smith
Who should really be under center?
Since Alex Smith suffered a concussion in the first half of the Nov. 11 contest against the Rams, the 49ers have been Colin Kaepernick's team, and Smith has been left staring longingly onto the field from the sidelines. But as exciting as Kaepernick has been in his guidance of the Niners to the Super Bowl, is he really the right quarterback for the job? Or should Smith be the one gearing up to lead the team on Feb. 4? Let's take a look at how the two signal-callers stack up against each other.
Smith: What preceded 2012?
Ok. It might be irrelevant now, but it's part of the narrative, so here's a quick reminder of Smith's path to the present. After a stellar junior year at Utah, Smith went No. 1 overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. Though a handful of rocky years followed, Smith became the undisputed starter in 2011, leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship and posting the highest passer rating (90.7) of his career to that point.
Kaepernick: What preceded 2012?
Kaepernick enjoyed a monster senior season at Nevada, accounting for 3,022 yards through the air, 1,206 yards on the ground and 41 total touchdowns. After winning his second WAC Player of the Year award -- and dazzling scouts at the combine -- the somewhat raw, dual-threat quarterback was selected by the Niners in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft (No. 36 overall). He saw limited playing time as a rookie.
Smith: As a passer
Since the end of the Mike Nolan era in 2008, Smith has improved markedly each season. He's gone from a turnover-prone, low-percentage passer to the exact opposite in recent years, completing 70.2 percent of his throws and totaling 13 touchdowns to just five picks before his concussion this year. The result was an NFL-best passer rating of 104.1 at the time of his injury.
Kaepernick: As a passer
Before Smith's concussion in November, Kaepernick had attempted just 14 passes in the NFL. Since, he has attempted 209 passes, completing 131 of them (63%) while throwing 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Over his two postseason starts, Kaepernick has thrown for just under 500 yards and three touchdowns, posting a passer rating of 105.9.
Smith: As a runner
Before being entirely upstaged by his understudy this season, Smith was one of the more underrated mobile quarterbacks in the league. He has totaled 311 yards on the ground in his last 26 games, and his 19 first downs over that span are well above the average for NFL quarterbacks.
Kaepernick: As a runner
Not much of a comparison here, as Kaepernick is one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the league. His performance in the divisional round of the playoffs this year was legendary -- 16 carries, 181 yards and two touchdowns -- and the numbers are totally representative of how good he truly is. Right now, only Robert Griffin III comes to mind as a better running signal-caller, and even so, his yards per carry compare favorably to Kaepernick's.
Smith: As a winner
Simple stats here: 38-36-1 during the regular season. 12 game-winning drives. Playoff record of 1-1.
Kaepernick: As a winner
5-2 during the regular season. Two game-winning drives. Playoff record of 2-0.
Who has the edge?
Passing: Smith has been the more efficient passer and possesses much more experience against NFL defenses. Though Kaepernick has been very good since taking the reigns, we give the nod to Smith. Rushing: No contest. Kaepernick. (see: Divisional Round win over Packers) Winning: Toss up. Between last season and the beginning of this one, Smith has proven that he is capable of winning a lot of football games. By lighting up the Packers two weeks ago and beating the Falcons to go to the Super Bowl, Kaepernick has proven he can win on the big stage. So who deserves to be the Niners' quarterback? Tough call. We'll leave it up to Coach Harbaugh.