San Francisco is a city divided.
However, it’s not in the way you may think. This isn’t a case of preservation vs. gentrification. Nor is it bicycle enthusiast vs. SUV driver. It’s Kapernick vs. Smith, and nearly everyone from the Sunset to Candlestick has an opinion on who should be the starting quarterback for the 49ers.
After last Sunday’s devastating loss in St.Louis, the controversy has continued to expand to a full-blown crisis. With the 49ers brass remaining relatively cryptic about the long and short term future of the position, a civil unrest has begun to form in a fan base looking for an answer.
Smitten With Smith
In the incumbent Alex Smith, the argument in his favor can be validated by the fact that he did nothing horribly wrong to lose his job. Before his concussion in Week 10, Smith had led the 49ers to a 6-2 record and had showcased an impressive rapport with his wide receivers while staying on pace to improve on his statistics from the previous year. With the hiring of Jim Harbaugh, Smith’s career has been revitalized leading the 49ers to a 20-6 record under the new coach’s regime. Last season was a revelation for the former number one overall draft pick.
After 6 years of futility and failed expectations, Smith salvaged his career and reputation in San Francisco by orchestrating a series of comeback victories and leading the 49ers all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately an unforgiving New York Giants defense and a pair of devastating fumbles by Kyle Williams sabotaged the possibility of a return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994. Although the end goal wasn’t met, a new consensus was formed on the topic of Alex Smith. In the eyes of 49ers fans, Smith had redeemed himself with his play in 2011 and many looked forward to his return in 2012.
The New Kid in Town
Despite a much publicized courtship of Peyton Manning during the off-season, the 49ers entered 2012 with Smith firmly entrenched as the starter. Enjoying a similar success to 2011, Smith had completed an eye popping 25 out of his last 27 passes before his ill advised aversion to sliding which resulted in the hard hit from Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Knocked out of commission, the door was open for the untested Colin Kaepernick to step into the role and show the athleticism that made him all the rage during his college days at the University of Nevada.
Watching the multi-talented Kaepernick on a field of play is like poetry in motion. The former three-sport prep star has moves that will make your head spin –whether it’s evading the defensive secondary with a series of spins, stops, and bursts of speed on route to a 50-yard run or slinging the ball down field to Mario Manningham with frightening velocity and pinpoint accuracy. Kaepernick is not a player whose athletic ability will ever be questioned. What is a concern is his lack of NFL experience after being used sparingly since his debut in 2011. With his career as an NFL starter, a mere three games old he has shown a propensity to be a playmaker and could be considered a star in the making. He provides the 49ers with a dynamic cornerstone player to build around and follows the pattern set by some of the more athletic quarterbacks in the league such as Michael Vick, Robert Griffin III, and Tim Tebow.
The true quandary that remains is with the 49ers returning to the playoffs, who should lead them the rest of the way? Do you choose the recovered and reliable Smith, who was so close to leading the 49ers to promised land last season? Or do you choose the hot hand, in the talented but inexperienced Kaepernick?
Whoever starts will receive the lion’s share of the criticism if the team fails. The inevitable questions will rear their ugly head, and fans will wonder what if? The decision is difficult and the whole city waits impatiently for a resolution.