Kap vs. Smith – The Chevy vs. the Porsche
As a Forty Niners season ticket holder for the last 15 years, I am riding high this season. Last season wasn’t bad either. Good things do come to those who wait, and wait, and wait.
From the day the Niners hired Jim Harbaugh I knew we would have a better team moving forward. I had watched Niner fans turn on the Yorks and their clumsy attempts to run the team. Bad coaches, lack of talent, no cohesive front office, it got ugly. Fans staged protests at Candlestick Park and even launched a website, “Dump York” as they became increasingly frustrated and angry with the direction the franchise was headed in. When John York and Denise DeBartolo handed the San Francisco Forty Niner reins over to their young son, Jed, Niner fans groaned loudly.
Why was Baby York given the keys to the kingdom? How much worse could it possibly get? Woe is me. I, however, felt a young energetic leader would be good for the Niners. I felt that if young Jed had some of his uncle Eddie’s guts and instincts he would be able to change the organization for the better.
He has. The reality is that Jed York has assembled an excellent organizational team. That team is the reason the Forty Niners are now considered one of the best, if not the best, team in the NFL.
Funny how all the whiners have stopped complaining about Jed and Trent. But what many still complain about is the quarterback play.
Alex Smith has had a rough ride here in the Bay Area. He has endured bad coaching, lack of talented players, injury and demotion. There have been a lot of people vying for his job since he started for the Niners. His skills and talents have been the subject of debate for the last 8 years. He has been compared over and over again to Aaron Rodgers, and not favorably. Through it all Alex Smith has done his job to the best of his ability.
This franchise and its fans expect not good quarterback play, they expect great, Hall of Fame quarterback play. I doubt that even the staunchest of Alex Smith supporters believe that Alex is a Hall of Fame quarterback. Nothing short of another Joe Montana or a Steve Young is acceptable to Niner fans.This is what Alex has had to try and live up to.
Alex reached the pinnacle of his career in the thrilling win over the Saints in last season’s playoffs. Yet, in spite of his improved play, poise, and character, the Niners went after Peyton Manning. Why? Because the coaches know that Alex is a good quarterback and he could get them into a Super Bowl, but they don’t believe he can win in a shoot-out or against a team with Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning on the other side. The 49ers may have to go up against Eli Manning and the Giants in the playoffs and there is concern that Alex can not get the long ball down the field when he needs to.
This franchise has history, going to a Super Bowl or two or three and winning, is what they want.
The debate about Alex Smith as the Forty Niners quarterback is nothing new.
What is somewhat surprising is the timing of all this. Alex has improved under Jim Harbaugh’s tutelage and coaching. Yet Harbaugh has chosen this moment, deep into the regular season and with a playoff berth on the line, to make a change at quarterback.
Alex is our guy, Harbaugh has said on many occasions. But he sees that he may have found the next great Hall of Fame 49ers quarterback in Kap, he is not going to let him warm the bench. Harbaugh is a gutsy, take no enemies type of guy.
We should have expected Harbaugh to kick the tires on Number Seven. Now that he has kicked the tires, and sees that the reliable Chevy, Smith, can still run but needs a little time to warm up and may not be able to shift into fourth gear, but that Kap goes from 0-60 in no time flat, well, the brand new sports car is going to get the nod.
The opportunity to try out the new wheels came when Alex suffered a concussion in the Rams game. In came “Kap” and he rallied the team getting them in position to win the game in OT. The “Kid” looked good in his first “up at bat”.
Serendipity was on Harbaugh’s side. Alex wasn’t able to shake off the concussion symptoms for the next game against the Bears.
I was at that game and the feeling among the fans before the game was that we were going to have a tough time beating the Bears with our young and inexperienced quarterback. The Bears had a veteran in as their backup, and their defense was scary good.
And then…we watched in open-mouthed amazement as “The Kid” played an amazing game. We turned to each other, in the stands, and said “Wow”! We simply could not believe what we were witnessing.
As I watched that game unfold and saw how well the team played and responded to Kap, I felt as if I was witnessing the passing of the 49er torch.
The quarterback debate rages on in the media. Those who feel that Alex has gotten a raw deal have a point. But if you are Jim Harbaugh and your job is to win today and in the future, you have to be thrilled that you may just have found the next Joe Cool. You must be pleased that the “The Kid” known as Kap is sitting on your bench, or maybe, under center for the rest of the season.
About an hour ago Jim Harbaugh announced that Kaepernick will start against the Rams on Sunday.
The torch has been passed. A star is born. It’s Kap’s show now.