San Francisco 49ers: New Year, New Competition at QB

Ryan The BrokerAnalyst IApril 16, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14:  Quarterbacks Alex Smith #11 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers  prepare to take the field for the start of the NFC Divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As the dawn of a new season approaches in the horizon—like usual—one question dances on the mind of every 49ers fan: who will be the starting quarterback?

While many will argue that Alex Smith was a couple plays away from a Super Bowl and that he deserves the start, myself and a few others see things differently.

It’s no secret that I am a big Colin Kaepernick supporter. In fact, I am probably one of the biggest, aside from maybe Grant Cohn of the Press Democrat. So don’t be surprised when my thoughts are revealed later on.

But what about Josh Johnson? 

The former Jim Harbaurgh protege from San Diego was one of the 49ers' biggest acquisitions this offseason. Maybe he will stand out in camp and take over.

Don’t fool yourselves, Josh Johnson was brought in for depth and no matter what you hear from the radicals, he is not going to seriously compete for the start. Johnson’s competition is with Scott Tolzien for the third and final spot on the roster—a competition I am confident he will win.

Yes, my friends, the true competition is between Alex Smith and Harbaugh's draft pick, Colin Kaepernick.

First, let me say that Alex Smith did a good job last year. By far, last year was the best of Smith’s career. It was a very safe, well-played year for the veteran. And in fairness, he was just a couple plays away from the Super Bowl. 

But the great performance from the 49ers last year was a team effort, and it was particularly the defense that delivered them to the NFC Championship game.

The Denver Broncos went to the second round in the playoffs after defeating the great Pittsburgh Steelers, but it wasn’t because of amazing QB play from Tim Tebow. The Broncos got to where they were by the tremendous play of their defense.

The same goes for the 49ers.

It’s pretty obvious that the 49ers do not look at Alex Smith as the future. The pursuit of Peyton Manning and the contract Smith signed are evidence of that. 

Yes, Manning is a future Hall of Famer and we have heard the cover, “We would be foolish not to”. But did the Packers pursue Manning? How about the Patriots, Giants, Saints or Chargers? The answer is no, and the reason is they have their franchise quarterback on the roster.

Smith’s contract—although on paper is three years (which in itself is a bad sign)—is essentially a year-to-year contract. If Harbaugh and Trent Baalke thought Alex was the truth, they would have given him an honest contract. They did not.

Agree or not, Colin Kaepernick is the future of this franchise until he proves otherwise. His physical talent far outweighs that of any other QB on the roster.

The only question that remains to be seen with Kaepernick is whether or not he has the right mind for the game. Can he master the playbook and offense? Can he process the game in real time at the pro level? Can he read the defense before the snap? All evidence says he is an intelligent guy, so the odds are favorable. 

If Kaepernick proves he can handle the game mentally, look for him to take over this year. There is no reason to delay the inevitable. If he is ready, Harbaugh will give him the start.


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