Alex Smith's 49ers got the job done, Colin Kaepernick's may be able to take it a step further

Chris Graythen

Alex Smith's time in San Francisco might just be done, as Colin Kaepernick looks like the starting quarterback going forward, following a 31-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 12.

Say what you will about Alex Smith and what he's been through with the San Francisco 49ers over the years. Suggest that making the switch to Colin Kaepernick after one solid performance (which Smith has clearly bested this year) is a disservice to a player who likely could have left the organization last season. Talk about how Smith would have done just as well as Kaepernick against the Saints, and probably wouldn't have thrown an interception while doing so.

It doesn't matter.

Kaepernick is the guy going forward, and no amount of Jim Harbaugh holding his tongue on the Week 13 starter will change that. He's now 2-0 as a starter, with a solid road win in a hostile environment, and his final stat line is irrelevant with that noted. He won.

Sure, Ahmad Brooks and Donte Whitner both snagged interceptions and took them back for touchdowns and sure, Kaepernick had a bad interception of his own, the kind that Smith never throws. But all will turn to that drive to start out the second half, in which Kaepernick slammed the nail in the coffin and led the 49ers on a quick scoring drive.

If you argue, they'll then point to the nine minutes-plus drive that Kaepernick orchestrated. They'll point to the play in the second quarter, when Kaepernick was rolling out with the pressure and threw a last second pass to a stretched out Bruce Miller, who took it and turned it into a big game. They'll note the fact that Kaepernick made a decision well beyond his years to not go with his instincts and run the ball.

You can look at Smith's 49ers, and how they seemed like a methodical, well-oiled machine that put up points and rode the waves of momentum to victory. The receivers are understated, but happy - the running backs are well fed and have no complaints. The quarterback is stoic, unassuming, but unrelenting.

But then you look at Kaepernick's 49ers, a unit that somehow seems more youthful as a whole. They're fast, dynamic, and they'll go for the throat. Kaepernick himself has a lot to prove, but he's going out there and proving it as fast as he can. They'll make more mistakes than Smith's 49ers, but they'll always have the potential to score on every play.

These observations are made over a very short time. Many a quarterback gets an opportunity to start, and he plays well, misleading the masses en route to a big collapse. Kaepernick is making some very grown up plays that make a relapse seem unlikely.

Jim Harbaugh is a smart man. He handed over the reigns of a team that went 13-3 a season ago and almost half a season of wins this year to a totally unproven player. Smith did nothing to go out there and squander his opportunity to play quarterback, he simply picked the wrong day to have a day off. Kaepernick isn't being turned to as a last resort, and this speaks volumes for the confidence the coaching staff has in him.

More than anything, that should give 49ers fans confidence. A 2-0 start to the Kaepernick era is icing on the cake.

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