After a very successful 2011 season in which the San Francisco 49ers were within a heartbeat of the Super Bowl, the 49ers seemed set to make another deep playoff run in 2012. Then came the offseason when the 49ers attempted to sign Peyton Manning. Were they unhappy with Alex Smith? Not necessarily. They had a chance to sign a future Hall of Fame quarterback, so they had to explore that option! Eventually, Peyton decided to join the Broncos and Alex re-signed with the 49ers.
The 2012 season started well for Alex. The 49ers won 4 of their first 5 games and Alex appeared to have a complete grasp of the offense. However if you look deeper into their loss to the Vikings, you’ll realize that the 49ers needed more from the quarterback position. The defense was playing poorly and the special teams were…not special. Alex was unable to spark the team. After a great game versus the Bills, the 49ers seemed ready to take the reins off Alex. Then the Giants came to San Francisco and destroyed the 49ers. The defense was awful and needed a big game from their quarterback. Alex delivered 3 awful interceptions and the team lost by 23 points. The following week versus the Seahawks, he threw an absolutely terrible interception in the endzone that should have been a 49ers touchdown. After that game, the coaches seemed to put the reins back onto Alex.
Alex was one of the highest rated passers in the NFL when he left the first Rams game with a concussion. He missed two games and Colin Kaepernick played very well in his first two starts. Why did the 49ers stay with Colin?
With Alex, the 49ers already know what they have. Alex is a low-risk, low-reward quarterback and is smart and efficient. While playing for Jim Harbaugh, Alex’s best attribute has been he throws few interceptions. One of the reasons why he rarely throws interceptions is because he is so careful before unleashing a throw. This carefulness is also the reason for his worst attribute, the inability to complete passes on 3rd down, in the red zone, and down the field. He is afraid to throw the ball into tight windows! Against good teams and especially in the playoffs, all of the windows are tight! Alex’s great game versus the Saints in the playoffs last year was an aberration.
On the other hand, Colin is extremely dynamic! He excels at throwing the ball down the field and runs with quickness and speed. He is not afraid to unleash throws into tight windows! Anytime he runs the read-option, he is a threat to run for a touchdown. However, he’s not perfect. He’s still learning how to read defenses; his pre-snap and post-snap reads, are slower than Alex’s, but should improve in the future.
The 49ers defense and special teams are not as good as last season, so they are usually unable to carry the 49ers to victory against good teams. Against the good teams, the 49ers need their quarterback to do more than just avoid interceptions. They need the quarterback to lead the team and make big plays and 1st downs in the passing game.
I believe the 49ers made the right choice in choosing Colin as the starting quarterback for the remainder of 2012 and into the future. Colin gives the 49ers a chance to beat the good teams. He is inconsistent right now, but he will get better with experience and coaching. I love Alex because of his great work ethic and attitude for the past 8 years, but the 49ers need more than what Alex can deliver.