Efficiency vs. Potential: You Make the Call

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By now everyone in the football world has heard Jim Harbaugh’s decision to start Colin Kaepernick over a now healthy Alex Smith for the San Francisco 49ers as they take on a formidable St. Louis Rams team this coming Sunday. Niners’ football faithful along with the casual football fan all have an opinion on the matter. I have an opinion on the matter, as I’m sure you have an opinion on the matter; and fortunately for you, we want to hear it.

​Forget for a second that Jim Harbaugh actually drafted Colin Kaepernick (and simply inherited Alex Smith) & put yourself in his shoes. Alex Smith has done nothing but produce for the 49ers recently, winning 13-of-16 regular season games in 2011 & posting a 6-2 (13:5 TD:INT ratio) record before being knocked from a Week 10 battle vs. Rams with a concussion.

If Smith’s recent win/loss record isn’t good enough to remain the starter, then let this sink in. At the time of his benching, Alex Smith was the LEAGUE LEADER in completion percentage. That’s right, Alex Smith completed more of this passes this season than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees – at 70.0%.

After a woeful beginning to his career, Alex Smith has finally gained the confidence of all 49ers’ fans with his efforts this season and last. His true camaraderie and gamesmanship even transcended between sports as he played a small, but exciting role in the 2012 San Francisco Giants playoff push and eventual championship.

Alex Smith wore a Giants’ baseball cap to one of his press conferences earlier in the 2012 NFL season. In turn the Giants invited Smith to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to one of their playoff games. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy and other Giants’ players even donned 49ers hats to support Smith and the team. After the Giants won the 2012 World Series, Alex Smith drove Matt Cain’s car in the parade throughout San Francisco. The city and fans alike have all finally fully invested in Alex Smith – or at least he thought.

Enter electrifying second-year quarterback out of University of Nevada-Reno, Colin Kaepernick. The 25-year old can essentially make all the plays that Alex Smith simply can’t.  Before being drafted 36th overall to the 49ers in the 2011 NFL Draft, Colin Kaepernick was actually drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2009 as a pitcher, despite not having played baseball since high school – so you know he has an extremely strong arm.

The 6’4, 230lb Kaepernick adds plenty of upside to the quarterback position for the 49ers besides his obvious arm strength. As was evident in his only two NFL starts versus Bears & Saints, Colin Kaepernick has all the necessary tools to be successful in the NFL.

He can make throws on a rope, zipping the ball directly to his receivers, drop balls in the “bread basket” with pristine accuracy and touch, and he possesses the power to launch the ball clear across the field, which must have veteran wide-receiver Randy Moss licking his chops.

Another skill Kaepernick possesses is his inherent ability to elude pass rushers. For such a huge frame, Kaepernick is incredibly slippery and agile, which awards him more time to look downfield to find wide-open teammates while under heavy pressure. Oh, and if those teammates don’t happen to be open, scampering for a first down is another aspect of the game in which Kaepernick trumps Smith. Colin Kaepernick defines upside & potential, and with his surprising 2-0 start in this league, the future could be now.

Although Kaepernick is a perfect 2-0 in two NFL starts, it remains to be seen what the future holds for the San Francisco 49ers with the 2nd-round pick at the helm. Clearly, Alex Smith isn’t in complete agreement with the move Harbaugh ultimately made Wednesday afternoon, naming Colin Kaepernick the starting QB.

​“I mean, it sucks,” Smith told reporters on Friday, the first time he’s spoken with the media since the decision had been made public.

“I don’t know what else to say,” he continued. “I feel the only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion.”

If this Kaepernick experiment fails, Alex Smith must be prepared to reassume the role as starting quarterback and leader of the team, psyche and confidence fully intact. Ultimately, this could be too much to ask of the 8-year veteran. It’s simple really: if Smith’s confidence is shot, his play might be negatively affected. So was it too soon for the Kaepernick era to begin? You tell us.

On one hand, you have a proven veteran winner with an accurate arm, relatively limited skills, and a city that finally respects him. On the other hand, you have a young, unproven, inexperienced 2nd-year player with incredible physical ability, a perfect 2-0 starting record, all the potential in the world, and a city starving for a championship. Who do you start Sunday versus Rams? While you think about it, consider this:

Which do you value more: efficiency in the present or potential for the future?

Jesse Cintron (Twitter: @JesseJCintron)

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