Alex Smith: 49ers Backup QB Shows Strong Character in Uncomfortable Situation

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20:  Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick #7 and quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers warm up before taking on the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh made the switch from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick, it could have become a divisive force in the locker room for one of the best teams in the NFL

After all, Smith played a key role in the 49ers making it to the NFC Championship Game last year and led the team to a 6-2-1 record in games he started this season. He was also completing 70.2 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

When Kaepernick was given the starting job following a great performance against Chicago on Monday Night Football in Week 11, which he played in because Smith suffered a concussion against St. Louis the previous week, players could have revolted. 

After Kaepernick was officially named the starter, Smith said "it sucks," later claiming that he didn't do anything on the field to warrant losing his job. 

However, none of the bad blood or controversy ever seemed to hurt the relationship between Kaepernick and Smith. It also didn't do anything to hurt the 49ers, who are making their first Super Bowl appearance since the 1994 season. 

In fact, after the game, Fox showed shots of Smith looking happy and celebrating with his teammates. He was also reportedly out at a club celebrating the victory with—who else?—Colin Kaepernick. 

Even though he didn't do anything to lose his job, Smith is smart enough to know that the best thing he can do right now is be a great teammate. He is going to have his chance to play again somewhere in 2013, presumably.

It doesn't make sense for the 49ers to keep Smith and his salary around when they know what Kaepernick can give them. Trying to cause a controversy wouldn't speak well of Smith to the other 31 teams. 

Plus, it's not like Smith had nothing to do with this season. Remember, the 49ers' success in the first half of the season was due in large part to his efforts.

It is because of Smith's strong character and team-first attitude that the 49ers were able to make a seamless transition at quarterback. His time will come again, but now it is about something bigger than just him vs. Kaepernick. 

The 49ers are certainly no strangers to a quarterback controversy. But unlike the Steve Young vs. Joe Montana debate that got very frigid and tense at times, this one has thrived because of the strong relationship between the two quarterbacks and Smith doing all he can for the good of the team.