Lots of Zohn readers have taken issue with my position that the Niners should make the transition from Smith to Kaepernick right now. Fine. This blog exists for polite, cordial discussion and disagreement. So I have some questions for the people who disagree with me. Do you think Smith still should start, if he’s healthy, of course, because:

1. He is better than Kaepernick.

2. The team will do better with him than Kaepernick this season.

3. You are loyal to Smith because he is a nice guy.

4. Some other reason I have not accounted for.

Please give a reason for your answer. I am not grading your responses, not even on a pass-fail basis.

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  1. BigBrad184

    I’m torn on the decision. I fall under option #2 as to why I am still unsure if the right decision is to transition to Kaep right away. It was only one game, albeit a great one. The other thing to consider is that the Bears don’t do much to “confuse” the QB – they just line up and play their defense. Ideally what would happen is Harbaugh says they are going to start Kaep this week because Alex still hasn’t been cleared yet so they want to give all the practice reps to the guy they know can play on Sunday. If Kaep falters then it is easy to go back to Alex once he is healthy because he won’t have “lost” his starting job at any point – he was just injured. If Kaep has a repeat performance and plays great, well, then I think they should seriously considering rolling with Kaep the rest of the season.

    November 21st, 2012 10:47 am

  2. VR

    I would like Alex to start the games rest of this year if he is completely healthy. I don’t mind seeing Kap one more game though.

    If we fail to reach SuperBowl, I think next year Alex Smith should backup Kap.

    Either way the future looks good for Niners.

    November 21st, 2012 10:48 am

  3. Jack Orion

    For all Kap did well Monday, he was lucky.

    He doesn’t seem to know when to scramble, and he could have been hammered on a couple blind-side sacks.

    And his ball seems to float. That’s fine on some deep routes, but not across the middle.

    Stick with Smith. For now.

    November 21st, 2012 10:48 am

  4. B-Rad

    If Harbaugh and staff, after watching Kaepernick for a year and a half, feel
    that he gives us the best chance to win the Super Bowl…….he will make the
    change now. If he doesn’t, he won’t.

    While the Saints have a very good offense, fifth ranked in the NFL, their
    defense is horrible – 32nd -dead last. The Bears had the 5th ranked
    ‘D’ when Kaepernick played them. New Orleans will be a noisy, difficult
    venue in which to play (Louisiana Superdome), a good learning experience for a
    young QB who may have to lead us into Atlanta (Georgia Dome) for the NFC
    championship game.

    November 21st, 2012 10:54 am

  5. JayT

    1. we don’t have a large enough sample size from Colin K. to have any idea who’s the better QB right now. Same answer for #2.

    November 21st, 2012 11:04 am

  6. DarbyO

    Jack Orion: Kap’s ball seems to float? If you mean float perfectly in to the hands of streaking receivers, then I’m with you, otherwise, we must be looking at different players. The guy throws lasers out there. If anything, Kap is demonstrating a knowledge that he doesn’t always have to rifle the ball at full velocity (think Vince Evans) to complete a pass, and there have been some passes where he has shown great touch. I’d venture to guess that Kaepernick’s arm strength is among the best in the league, and I know he was off the charts at the combine in this regard…

    November 21st, 2012 11:06 am

  7. Russell

    It seems like the consensus is that most Alex Smith backers lean towards him because at the very least he is a known commodity. With kaepernick, there is more of a fear of the unknown. Harbaugh is not one to make decisions based on fear. I think the 49ers will start Kaepernick at the saints using Alex’s concussion as a reason, if he excels in new Orleans, I don’t see any way he doesn’t start from there on out.

    November 21st, 2012 11:07 am

  8. DarbyO

    Also, with regard to concerns about Kaepernick being intimidated by the noise in the Superdome: he’s played there before (in the preseason last year) and was the only QB for the 49ers who got anything done in that Gregg Williams blitzfest.
    He also started for four years at Nevada, played in over 50 college games, and during his career he played at Boise State (twice), at Notre Dame, and in a number of other super-loud stadiums. He’s not going to be blown away by crowd noise.

    November 21st, 2012 11:13 am

  9. Alex

    Kaepernick should start how is this even a question?

    He showed more in 1 game than Alex showed in 8 years.

    Here’s a fun fact:

    Alex Smith over the past 2 seasons, has put up a 73, and 79 passer rating versus teams with WINNING records, and has more interceptions than touchdowns! This year it’s 4 TD 5 INT vs winning teams. HELLO?

    He gets his stats inflated on weak teams like the Bills and Cards.

    November 21st, 2012 11:15 am

  10. Dennis

    The reason Smith should start, if he is able, is because the downside risk with Smith is much less. If you go to Kaepernick now and he is not consistent you have a very big problem. Your team starts to lose and pretty soon you lose the team. if you go with Smith and he doesn’t get you to the Super Bowl, you still have a team and a new quarterback with a fresh new start next season. For me the downside risk far out weighs the upside gain with Kaepernick at this point of the season. Stay with Smith. Make the change in the off season. Don’t renew Smith’s contract and give some of that saved money to Dashson Goldson.

    November 21st, 2012 11:19 am

  11. kato

    1. Pocket presence – ability to extend play
    2. Accuracy.
    3. Velocity.

    Kap has the intangibles which Smith has not shown any in 7 plus years, just ask Steve Young. I would like to see Kap start from now on and take our chances.

    November 21st, 2012 11:27 am

  12. KauaiRobert

    Man, that touch pass he laid right into Kyle Williams’ hands was a thing of beauty.
    I would really like to see what he can do in Nawlins.
    A tough road game against a high-powered offense that could end up a shoot-out so he’ll have to put some points up.
    And their defense isn’t playing that bad right now either.
    Like everyone else said, if he flourishes he keeps starting.

    November 21st, 2012 11:37 am

  13. DHarte

    One last time, Lowell, then we’ll give it a rest: Alex Smith is the third-rated QB in the NFL…not the NFC, the NFL. He has the highest completion rate of any QB in football, his TD to interception ratio is better than 2:1, and he has already outplayed the second highest-rated QB, Aaron Rodgers, on Rodgers’ home field, the supposedly intimidating tundra of Lambeau.

    This man has had one REALLY bad interception in the last two years. Matt Ryan threw five last week. Eli Manning threw four the week before. So let’s forgive Alex the NY Giants game.

    If you don’t like Smith, that’s fine–just say that and we’ll accept your bias. But don’t pretend the guy can’t play at the highest level. Without those two godawful Williams’ fumbles in the NFC Championship game, the 49ers are in the Super Bowl and probably win (Brady, behind that porous line, would have been beaten to a pulp by the Smith brothers, and Willis stops the Gronk cold).

    It didn’t happen. But it was not Alex Smith’s fault. And the way in which the kid has been trashed is disgusting. That’s the “acerbic” tone you’re hearing. He just deserved better. He’s a class act, and god knows there aren’t many in professional sports.

    November 21st, 2012 11:48 am

  14. mbabco

    I think I’d (somewhat reluctantly) go with Smith. The NFL (and even the 49ers) are replete with stories of back-up QB’s that stepped in for one game, did fantastic, and then flopped. Alex Smith has experience, is steady, great at changing plays at the line of scrimmage and is completing 70% of his passes. Kaepernick had one great game (plus a pretty good half against St. Louis); but he’s essentially a “rookie” (in terms of playing time) QB who will probably (like QB’s just starting to play) be subject to ups and downs. I think as opposing teams watch the film and prepare specifically for him, it’s likely we’d him struggle.

    Long-term, I think Kaepernick could be very good indeed. He’s gifted in terms of skills and seems very, very smart: long-term, he’ll thrive. I just think Smith gives them the best chance to go further this year.That is assuming that he recovers 100% from the concussion. When I see him in pictures, he still looks a little spacey. I think Smith is a great competitor: this whole episode could get his juices flowing and make him better.

    I would like to see them sit Alex one more week. I reserve the right to change my mind if Kaepernick has a great game against New Orleans. [I'm sure you'll be revisiting the topic if Kaepernick plays, in any case.]

    I said it before: I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision.

    November 21st, 2012 11:49 am

  15. Jason Ford

    You Alex Smith Supporters are nuts,delusional,misguided. Without Jim Harbaugh ,there is no Alex Smith. So if Jim Harbaugh feels like its time; then damn it, it’s time. Why question the person who made Alex Smith a Good Game Manager…

    November 21st, 2012 11:57 am

  16. RednGold1

    OK, I’ll take the side that Alex Smith should start over Kaep.
    For your reasons:
    Alex is better than Kaep.
    Wait, no, Kaep is better.
    The team will do better with Alex.
    Well, no, prolly not even as good.
    I am loyal to Alex because he is a nice guy.
    Yes, that’s it. Alex is a nice guy. But, darn, Kaep is a really
    nice guy, too.
    Another reason. Hmmmmm. Alex is more accurate. Uh, no.
    Alex is better in the pocket. Still no. Alex runs better.
    Yeah, that’s my choice. Alex runs better. Now, does
    anyone disagree? Anyone? Anyone?

    Start Kaep. There is no reason not to.

    November 21st, 2012 12:07 pm

  17. Kommon Senze

    As I’ve said, Lowell, I think it’s far too early to be making pronunciations about how good Kaepernick will be if he got handed the reigns moving forward. I recognize he brings some elite skills that Alex does not possess (although Alex’ athleticism is being severely underrated by many trying to make the point, imo). I listened to many people from around the NFL sports world regarding this, and several people made the same point that I think is overlooked.

    How good was Andrew Luck a couple weeks ago? Amazing, right? Has that been his performance week in and week out? No. He’s been inconsistent, and he’s one of the best/brightest young QBs we’ve seen in a long time. The point that was brought up repeatedly is that, with young QBs, the unevenness and inconsistency of performance are part and parcel to their development.

    I absolutely love Kaepernick’s potential. When he’s fully harnessed all of his ability, he could be one of the top QBs in the league, without question; he’s that good. But, despite how great he looked against the Bears, there are inevitable bumps in the road. The question that any staff worth their salt would be asking themselves is whether they really need to risk those bumps when they are in the thick of a playoff hunt? Would it not be better to limit his exposure and craft ways to optimize his usage, while continuing along the path they’ve been on with a QB who has proven more than competent to lead this team to victory? As Tim Kawakami noted, that may have been precisely what they’ve been doing; Smith’s injury just pulled the curtain back on their experiment a little early, and the world got a sneak preview of what’s ultimately in store.

    But just because something looks like a finished product in a limited viewing does not mean it IS a finished product. I have every belief now that Baalke and Harbaugh knew what they were doing when they drafted him a couple summers ago. All the points made about him being Harbaugh’s guy are on target, but they are not mutually exclusive with the notion that they believe Smith could help them win, too. Why would they resign him if they felt he was just a caretaker? Why would Harbaugh go to lengths to defend him at every turn?

    Smith’s not the same QB he was a year ago, either. His QBR has improved from 46 to 70, and that’s basically a sign of him making even better decisions than he did a year ago (QBR being, in essence, a ‘good decision’ metric for QBs). If you look over all the stats for the 49ers this year vs. last, his improved efficiency as a QB overall is the main thing that has helped compensate for the loss in field position and +/- Turnovers (two things that pundits in the off-season said would be a big reason the 49ers could fall back to earth this year after a surprising 13-3 season).

    Smith’s highs and lows are more predictable, and his overall game is more consistent. He may not take as many shots down field as the elite QBs, but that difference is exaggerated by the run-balanced and ball-control style of play the 49ers have employed (i.e., they run far fewer plays, overall, than many teams do, and they run a lower percentage of passing plays; by percentage of passes over 20 yards, Smith is right in line with QBs like Rodgers, Brady, and Manning — the triumverate of greatness who share the top of the QB rating board with Smith).

    I can’t wait to see what Kaepernick can eventually do, and I hope he continues to be featured in the offense now and again. I have confidence that, if/when the team calls upon him to step up, he can do it with competence. If that time is now, as determined by the staff (not the media), I’m fully on board. But to claim that it’s clear as day he should already be in is, imo, short-sighting a lot of the things Smith has done well and overlooking the unknowns that still exist with Kaepernick at this stage of his development.

    November 21st, 2012 12:09 pm

  18. Stan

    With all this winning the 49ers have done the last two years..I’ve run out of steam to second guess and be my normal critical self.

    November 21st, 2012 12:24 pm

  19. Steve

    I’m not getting paid 5 million per year, so I’ll trust whatever Harbaugh & Co. determine to be in the best interests of the team. That said, you pose an interesting and very difficult question. Not only did Kaepernick pass the eyeball test, but statistically he outperformed Smith in both of his appearances. The “official” stats that the NFL posts are very deceiving. Much better team and player performance evaluations can be found at http://www.advancednflstats.com. But again, teams don’t have enough film to game plan against him. Last year Smith’s best game was against the Saints (I believe the Saints were riding a 9 or 10 game winning streak) in the playoffs, albeit at the Stick. I also think if the Niners should fall behind by 10-14 points early with Smith starting, they would have a better chance to come back with Kaep off the bench than the reverse. Smith plays considerably better with a lead, so if the Niners defense plays as it did against the Bears, I like our chances with Smith starting in what many say is the loudest stadium in sports.

    November 21st, 2012 12:45 pm

  20. Giants Fan

    As of right now, Smith is the better QB given his overall body of work. It’s easy to get enamored with Kap because he oozes potential, but that potential must be realized first. One game does not a career make.

    If Harbaugh knows for certain, heck, if he knows that 75% of the time, Kap will play like he did on Monday, then he should start him…its unfortunate for Alex, but it’s all about putting out the best players.

    Personally, I’m not ready to jump on the Kap wagon yet…

    November 21st, 2012 1:10 pm

  21. jimmy

    2. The team will do better with him (Smith) than Kaepernick this season.

    What is Smith’s mindset at this point? The fans dismissed me, even hated me. Harbaugh came in and I almost got them to a Super Bowl, they now love me. I drove one of the cars in the Giants parade. I’m having a very good, maybe great 2012 season. I get a concussion and miss a game. Now everyone wants me out again. Incredible.

    November 21st, 2012 2:44 pm

  22. Streetglide

    “And his ball seems to float.”
    Wow, that is dumb on so many levels. Ask randy Moss…
    With Smith we win 19-13. With Colin, it’s more like 38-3. The O-line survives with Alex; it kicks butt with Colin because of his quick release and the fact that defenses cannot crowd the line.
    I’m pretty sure you will see Colin toss at least one unreal pass in the Saints game, something on the order of 70 yards in the air to Moss or Ginn. And either QB will beat the Saints because, although we won last January, the team hasn’t forgotten the preseason beatdown by those dirtbags from the swamps…

    November 21st, 2012 2:54 pm

  23. Brady

    Kaepernick is still a rookie in a sense; he’s only started one game in his career.

    As good as Luck and RG3 have been, they’ve also reminded us that there are growing pains for debuting quarterbacks. We are in the home stretch of the season, fighting for a division, home field advantage, and the super bowl. We can’t risk those unavoidable growing pains.

    I think Steve Young hit the nail on the head.

    And I think Kaep will start next year, and I’ll be happy.

    November 21st, 2012 4:00 pm

  24. Stan

    Ok,how about this..Alex does seem to have a hard time putting 30 points on the board. CK is one for one on that.

    November 21st, 2012 4:06 pm

  25. lameduck

    Send me to tryptophanics annonymous as this one is for the birds!

    It’s a team sport and the QB is one player.

    If being younger, smarter, faster was all that mattered, we’d both be out of work.

    November 21st, 2012 6:41 pm

  26. parnell

    I’ll let Alex Smith speak for me:

    In response to this question: “Were you surprised your coach left the door open?” Smith replied:

    “No, once again, that’s his call. Colin played great. He stepped up and played really well on a big stage against a good defense. It comes with the territory.”

    And added later:
    if you can’t be happy for your teammate’s success, you’re playing the wrong sport. Go play tennis or golf or something. That’s ridiculous, I think. It doesn’t belong in team sports, in my opinion. Like I said, it’s the quarterback position. It’s going to get a lot of attention. We’re going to get talked about. But it’s important that it doesn’t come in here (the locker room).”

    No matter what the press or the fans say or think, the team appears to have this handled. The coaching staff will decide which QB will start and the team, including the non-starting QB will do their best to help the team win.

    Both Kaepernick and Alex Smith (the team is loaded with Smiths) appear to be mature, classy individuals and just like there wasn’t a middle linebacker controversy when Patrick Willis didn’t play when Bowman fit better in their pass defense plans for one game and there’s no wide receiver controversy when Randy Moss doesn’t get thrown to or a tight-end controversy when Vernon Davis is asked to stay in and pass protect, there’s no QB controversy, except in the papers and online.

    November 21st, 2012 6:52 pm

  27. CohnZohn

    Parnell, you’re right. There’s no QB controversy. According to Jim Trotter of SI, Harbaugh just named Kaepernick the starter vs. New Orleans. There goes the QB controversy.

    November 21st, 2012 8:08 pm

  28. The Seth

    Its tough to argue that Kaep shouldn’t start, he lit up a great defense Monday. I’d just hate to see Smith go out like that. He was drafted into a bad situation and essentially the scapegoat for a poorly run/coached ball club and since Harbaugh has been in town he has made marked improvements. Two questions to me would be is the offense truly limited under Smith and how will Kaep look with some film on him and defenses ready for him?

    November 21st, 2012 8:23 pm

  29. Jim Bancroft

    I’m not sold on Kaepernick. Not on on one good start. I predicted he wouldn’t do well on Monday, and I was wrong, but the warning signs I think were there.

    He got a touchdown pass to Crabtree by throwing across his body. That’s *not* the way to success in the NFL. His long pass to Williams was nice but he had time on that throw. I saw evidence of the ‘happy feet’ under pressure in other situations. Again, ‘scramble first’ is not the way to win– ask Michael Vick. The jury is still very much out.

    November 21st, 2012 9:36 pm

  30. Johnc

    At first I felt that Smith would be better as a starter in a hostile loud dome in New Orleans because of his experience . He can manage the team with his dinks and dunks. Problem is the Saints will be ready for that . They will stop the run and force Smith to throw. And we know he can’t throw deep and he does stupid stuff under pressure He ranks 21 in the league on third down conversions.
    On second thought, I would rather take my chances with Kaepernick. He has just as much poise as Smith, more talent than Smith and will be able to stretch the defense more than Smith.

    November 21st, 2012 9:38 pm

  31. Tommy CostaRica

    Alex does not even see the same throws that Kap sees. He has no field of vision.

    November 21st, 2012 9:40 pm

  32. Nancy R

    Kaepernick. He has guts. He is a natural. Don’t underestimate the guy. He has confidence. Crowd noise? Are you kidding me?

    November 22nd, 2012 2:15 pm

  33. Dave T

    I noticed one thing when watching the Niners on Monday night, Kaepernick had a habit of really staring down his receivers, and I mean really, really staring them down. Did anyone else see that? You might get away with that in one game, but if I saw it, then I am sure that other teams watching the game film saw it too. Point is, he had a good game, against a good defense, but that defense did not give him a lot of looks, or different coverages etc. I have no idea why they didn’t do it, but they didn’t. Let’s see how he does against a defense like the Ravens, Steelers, Giants, heck even Patriots or the Saints in their place, where they change their looks, coverages, blitzes, right up to the snap of the ball. Let’s see them watch his eyes and where he looks, then we can really grade Colin.

    One game does not a career make, or break. The game Sunday will go a long way in seeing where he is at. Loud, hostile environment, against a team with a serious chip on their collective shoulders. Then we can truly start to have this debate.

    November 23rd, 2012 1:18 pm

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