Are We Sure 49ers Made the Right Call Switching from Smith to Kaepernick?

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IDecember 24, 2012

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23: San Francisco 49ers head coach John Harbaugh talks with Colin Kaepernick #7 on the sideline of a game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With every single mistake Colin Kaepernick makes, whether big or small, the same question will probably be asked: Did the San Francisco 49ers make the right decision in starting the second-year quarterback over Alex Smith?

Sunday night in Seattle, Kaepernick made a number of mistakes, both big and small. 

His interception in the end zone was an awful throw and decision. The 49ers struggled to get plays in on time. And Kaepernick never seemed to settle down or find a rhythm in a hostile environment that has swallowed whole a number of good quarterbacks already this season. 

Overall, Kaepernick finished 19-of-36 for 244 yards with both a touchdown and interception in the 49ers' 42-13 defeat to the Seahawks

But in the long run, nothing Kaepernick did or will do in the coming weeks detracts from the fact that starting the former second-round pick gives the 49ers the best chance to win football games week in and week out. 

Head coach Jim Harbaugh made the right choice in starting Kaepernick before, and he's continuing to make the right choice by starting Kaepernick in the future, including playoff games. 

Maybe Smith did beat this same Seahawks team in one of his last starts, a 13-6 win in San Francisco. But let's also not undershoot the fact that Smith finished that game with just 140 passing yards, an interception and a passer rating of just 74.5. He was not the deciding factor in that game or many other games during his career in San Francisco. 

In reality, the 49ers might not have won the game Sunday night in Seattle had Joe Montana or Steve Young been the quarterback. Seattle is the hottest team in the NFC, and there was no beating them at CenturyLink, or at least with the way the 49ers' defense played for most of Sunday night. 

Kaepernick and the rest of the 49ers ran into a buzz-saw, plain and simple. 

If there was any question as to who would be his quarterback moving forward, Harbaugh was quick to say Kaepernick's job was a safe one. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee tweeted as much after the game. 

Here's what we know: The 49ers are 4-2 with Kaepernick as the starting quarterback. Wins in New Orleans and New England have been buffeted by losses in St. Louis and Seattle. Kaepernick has 11 total touchdowns and four turnovers as the starter.

But the 49ers also have a more explosive offense (23.7 points a game with Smith starting, 26.2 with Kaepernick) and a higher ceiling with Kaepernick playing quarterback. When placed side by side, the choice at quarterback still remains an easy one in San Francisco.

There are higher risks in playing a young quarterback, but the higher chance of obtaining the ultimate prize has always made starting Kaepernick the right decision for Harbaugh and the 49ers. Nothing about that changed after Sunday night's loss in Seattle.