Here is a link to my Thursday column about Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. The full column appears below.

An old friend returns to the Bay Area on Sunday. Alex Smith will play quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs against the Raiders.

I pull for Smith. I bet you do, too. He is a gentleman. He had a rough go with Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary and he remained a gentleman. He was the first guy taken in the 2005 draft and, although he wasn’t a bust — nothing like that — he never lived up to first-overall-pick promise. He read all about it and heard all about it and, still, he remained a gentleman.

And although he is not a great quarterback, he is a very good quarterback. He’s doing just fine in Kansas City, has connected with Chiefs coach Andy Reid in ways he never connected with Jim Harbaugh. He even has a deep passing game, something he rarely showed in San Francisco — or was not allowed to show.

So, I ask a purely hypothetical question for the heck of it: Are the 49ers appreciably better at quarterback with Colin Kaepernick instead of Smith?

It’s probably an impertinent question and it certainly calls into question what Kaepernick has done and is doing. And let’s face it, last season no one would have asked the question. No one would have dared.

Kaepernick got the Niners to the Super Bowl and Smith would not have taken them to the Super Bowl. It’s just that Kaepernick has been shaky this season, has not won games through sheer heroism as most people thought he would. He was a hero last season, but the hero went away.

I always thought Harbaugh and Trent Baalke were right to choose Kaepernick over Smith. I still think they were right. This is not a dump Kaepernick column or a dump on Kaepernick column. But I’ll tell you this, if Smith were the 49ers quarterback, they would have just about the same record they have now.

The 49ers are 9-4. The Chiefs are 10-3. Pretty close. Smith could manage the 49ers’ offense as well as Kaepernick. Oh, let’s not mess around. He could manage it better. With Smith under center, there wouldn’t be all those delay-of-game penalties or the quarterback frantically calling time out with one second left on the play clock because there is so much to do and so little time to do it, and the quarterback — Kaepernick — feels his brain cells overloaded and misfiring. None of that would happen with Smith.

The issue for Harbaugh, why he chose Kaepernick over Smith, was about dynamism. Smith was not dynamic enough, was too calculating and didn’t make enough big plays. Smith’s analytical, conservative, managerial style was not what Harbaugh wanted. When the opportunity presented itself, Harbaugh went with Kaepernick, who has the “gunslinger” style Harbaugh craved.

It’s just that Gunslinger Colin disappeared. He hung up his six-shooter and boots and saddle, gave up the whole cowboy shtick and went to business school for an MBA focusing in managerial studies, and now he’s QB as manager. He’s become Alex Smith without the charm.

How did this change come about?

For this you must know how the NFL works. When Gunslinger Kaepernick burst onto the scene last season in that electric game against the Bears, the league didn’t have a book on him. Opponents didn’t know what to do with him, with his running and that read-option razzmatazz. In the offseason, reputable sports magazines were saying the Niners’ new offense would revolutionize offenses all over the NFL.

That didn’t happen.

Here’s what did happen. The league had a chance to study the 49ers’ offense, a chance to study Kaepernick. Every team — believe me — studied the Super Bowl film. They learned what Kaepernick does well and what he doesn’t do so well. But it’s more than that.

They learned what plays he likes — and what plays Harbaugh likes to use with him. This season, when teams see the Niners lining up for those plays, they sometimes show defenses that can beat those plays. That forces Kaepernick to call an audible. Sometimes, that audible is what the defense wants and can defeat. Sometimes, Kaepernick doesn’t look like such a gunslinger.

Defenses are not always reactive. Good defenses can force an offense away from the plays it likes to run.

Carolina did that to the 49ers. Seattle did it until Frank Gore’s great, game-winning run. Defenses routinely have forced Kaepernick away from his preferred plays. Like the read-option. He almost never does that anymore.

You may sense a subtext in what I’m writing. Well, two subtexts. I’m saying Alex Smith understands defenses better than Kaepernick, would not be blocked and confused the way Kaepernick gets blocked and confused. But there’s something even more important.

I’m saying the 49ers coaches need to teach Kaepernick better. They chose him over Smith. Sure. OK. Now, teach him. Teach him to read defenses better. Teach him to think faster when the clock is winding down. And teach him correct footwork.

That’s right, footwork.

Look at Kaepernick during a game. His legs are often spread too wide as he throws and his passes sail high or short. On some passes, his legs are all wrong. His passer rating last Sunday was 67.5. Not good enough. Certainly not good enough for a Super Bowl contender.

Compare film of Kaepernick to film of Joe Montana, Montana always steady on his feet, his legs in perfect position under his torso. Bill Walsh preached a quarterback cannot throw right if he doesn’t stand right. Steve Young took years to learn that. Harbaugh needs to teach Kaepernick to stand right, to move right. Does Harbaugh realize that?

Some of you probably don’t like me comparing Kaepernick and Smith. Some of you don’t think Smith is any good. He’s lucky because the Chiefs have a strong defense. He’s being saved by the Chiefs’ defense. Sure, but the same goes for Kaepernick. The 49ers’ defense is saving him, saved him last week.

The two offensive plays that won the game for the 49ers over the Seahawks were Gore’s run and Kaepernick’s 7-yard keeper around the left end that kept the final drive going. Neither was a pass play.

Smith could have handled those plays.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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  1. Mighty joe

    Okay I’ll bite. What’s one thing that wasn’t mentioned? One attribute of these two players that clearly one has more than the other. Kaep is faster and has a bigger arm. Yes but that doesn’t explain why Smith “manages” an offense better. How about experience? I’m not going to do your job, Lowell, but perhaps you could have included a comparison of the number of NFL games these two guys have started. Also, how was Smith doing in his second year- it’s a bit of an unfair comparison, because this team is much more talented than that one was.

    However, when it comes to reading defenses and making presnap adjustments experience matters.

    December 12th, 2013 8:43 am

  2. CohnZohn

    Mighty, You’re right about experience. But the Niners kept Kap and got rid of Smith knowing the experience gap. They kept Kap to take them to a Super Bowl, which he did although he didn’t win. They didn’t tell themselves, “Kap has less experience so we’ll forget about the Super Bowl.” They took the whole package inexperience and all.

    December 12th, 2013 8:49 am

  3. Johnc

    Last year Kaepernick was a gun slinger who routinely wandered out of the pocket ala Wilson of Seattle and keep the chains moving by passing or running . This year the Niner coaching staff insist that CK stay in the pocket and go through the progression of reading receivers ala Montana. The thing is Bill Walsh is not designing these plays and when Kaepernick looks downfield the recievers are not open. I agree that Kaepernick needs to be coached better on fundamentals as you said but Harbaugh et al need to design stuff that works, especially in the red zone .

    December 12th, 2013 8:57 am

  4. dharte


    Come on.

    You trashed Smith for years. It’s the reason I starting questioning you on this blog. Now if you want to admit a mistake–we’re listening. But please don’t pretend you were ever an admirer of Alex Smith in a 49er uniform…after about 2006?

    Of course you weren’t alone. Every writer within 100 miles seemed to relish trashing the kid. He was a bust, and labeled that even before Nolan, the irritating schmuck, tried to ruin his reputation along with his throwing arm (and shoulder).

    A few facts: Smith is limited, certainly. He does not throw an accurate deep ball, and never did. He still looks a little gun-shy (and who can really blame him) after years of mistakes and the constant ridicule of quarterbacking very bad teams, while playing for two of the worst Head Coaches in NFL history. And there is no question that Smith was the wrong pick by Nolan with Aaron Rodgers begging for the job with a Bart ticket in his hand.

    But Alex Smith was always whip-smart, and (unlike little Mikey who never did anything at Oregon and only has a career because of his pop) Smith is tough. Unbelievably. To take so many years of abuse, verbal and physical, and yet stay focussed and finally succeed? That’s just a remarkable achievement, whatever happens next.

    I would love to see him win a Super Bowl, though doubt that will happen; I just don’t think he can lead a team past the very best in a winner-take-all game.

    But I hope I’m wrong. And no matter how his career ends, Alex Smith will have a special place in 49er history for many of us. If Joe Montana somehow caught magic after a checkered college career, Smith is his complicated shadow: few breaks, much bad luck, horrific and erratic coaching, indomitable spirit.

    In other words, a man worthy of respect in a very shabby world.

    But please don’t pretend you were anything but contemptuous of this kid’s talent, or his resilience during those long, dark years when he was struggling without any real help.

    The final irony will be if Harbaugh was wrong, and Kaepernick just isn’t bright enough, doesn’t think quickly enough to see the whole field, or master that large playbook, much less read his progressions under pressure. Though that possibility would make a hell of an ending!

    For many of us, some who even go back to Kezar, the 49ers are leaving soon. So a screw up of that magnitude won’t hurt like it would have ten or twenty years ago.

    Next season, they are a tv team, nothing more.

    December 12th, 2013 9:00 am

  5. CohnZohn

    dharte, Did you have an extra cup of coffee this morning? Wow, what energy! I never said Smith is better than Kap. I clearly wrote the Niners were right to keep Kap over Smith. Calm down and read what I wrote. I also wrote both qbs are playing about the same right now and I also wrote the fault with Kap is more in the coaches than himself. Dude.

    December 12th, 2013 9:04 am

  6. Dan

    I think Smith has a pretty good book to write when his playing days are over based on his life experiences.

    December 12th, 2013 9:22 am

  7. Mighty joe

    Picking Colin over Alex was a complicated decision. Yes, the fact that Colin got hot, red hot certainly made it easier. Now he’s not hot and admittedly he’s dealing with the learning curve of being a qb. I doubt that Baalke and Harbaugh saw the decision as black and white. They knew last year that Smith could do some things better than Kaepernick.

    But there was another factor which largely goes in examined that helped them jettison Smith. Money saved/picks gained. It’s not Smith v Kaepernick. It’s Smith and his salary plus whatever trade value Kaepernick had v Kaepernick and his salary plus the trade value of Smith. Colin likely could have been traded for some good picks, perhaps more than the 2 2nds we’re receiving for Smith, perhaps not. That’s pure speculation so let’s call that a wash. What isn’t a wash is the millions that were freed from the salary cap. That’s the money that Baltimore couldn’t pay to Boldin after extending Flacco. So now the decision looks like Smith v Kaepernick and Boldin. That has proven to be a slam dunk as Boldin has been exceeding all expectations. Sure, Smith has done fairly well in KC but he has Bowe, a probowl caliber receiver. Baalke couldn’t have known that Crabtree would be lost, but such is life in the NFL. Gaining Boldin has saved the offense from utter disaster (elevating it to adequate).

    So while some of the luster has left Kaepernick, I think the decision to part ways with Smith looks better today in many ways.

    December 12th, 2013 9:25 am

  8. Stan

    What I was wondering was, If Van Morrison had dated a female Cyclops,would he have written a song about his “One Eyed Girl” ? …”Making love in the green grass behind the stadium with YOU,my One eyed girl”. La dee da.”

    As far as the two QB’S? I think the 49ers have a much greater chance to make the playoffs next year then the Chiefs. And for sure the Chiefs wont go 9-0 to start 2014.
    Kap looks to be 2-2 in playoff appearances. He might be a jerk,but he’s our really good football play’in jerk.

    December 12th, 2013 9:31 am

  9. Streetglide

    well in other news, Colin might not be the second-best QB in the NFC West forever:

    December 12th, 2013 9:34 am

  10. dharte

    I’ll take that as a compliment, and I’d argue that Smith’s story is the most interesting in the Bay Area since the Steve Young “rebirth” in 1994-95.

    Smith may actually be better than Kaepernick, at least in terms of effectiveness. We just don’t know if Kaepernick will grow into the job. He will never be a champion if he simply locks on to one receiver and plays with only half the field (which is exactly what happened in the Super Bowl at the key moment). Some quarterbacks never progress past this phase of limitation. So while Smith may be more limited athletically, the troubling sign for Kaepernick now is that he struggles with quick decisions: those time outs wasted because the play clock is almost out are not the fault of his coaches, and the proof is that Alex Smith never struggled to get his team set with Harbaugh and Roman in charge.

    So we’ll see.

    No doubt the energy you see is the result of saying good-bye. I’ve followed this team, as have my father and grandfather for a long time; my granddad had season tickets for the first year at Kezar. The 49ers were so bad for so long when I was a kid, and then they were remarkable.

    But the Yorks are another matter, and their greed (and the stupidity of SF politicians, chiefly the Gavin) make this break much easier to accept. I’m amazed that more hasn’t been made in the press of the contempt York has shown for long-time season ticket holders, many going back 50 years. $20,000 to $40,000 for just a seat license? For eight games, perhaps ten, a year?

    Ridiculous. Silicone Valley is welcome to them. You could even argue they deserve each other, and no doubt many would mistake that idea for a compliment.

    December 12th, 2013 9:48 am

  11. dharte

    Last point: you keep wanting to blame Roman, and by extension Harbaugh. That’s just not accurate.

    Kaepernick’s limitations are clearly mental, not physical; he does not see the field well, and he is nowhere near as quick in his decisions as Wilson or Luck (who both have one year less in the league).

    December 12th, 2013 10:20 am

  12. Bob In Beaverton

    One thing the Niners need to implement is a streamlined playcalling. Why waste all that time getting plays in to Kap? If they were consistently getting in the plays fast he’d improve with his reads.

    December 12th, 2013 10:44 am

  13. Brett

    The niners organization knew what they had in Alex. ie – his stats are the same with the Cheifs, great game manager etc. Alex is Alex. A very good QB but not a Manning or Brady or Breeze. What they see in Kap is major potential , in time, to become one of these game changing athletes. With Kap the glass is half full with the potential to spill over in time. With Alex the glass is 3/4 full and will never change.

    December 12th, 2013 10:46 am

  14. Stan

    So Lowell,what do you think of Matt Barros reporting a rumor Harbaugh might go to a Texas college? Or the rumor,he isn’t digging the meddling of the Yorks?

    December 12th, 2013 10:57 am

  15. Michael

    Oh Lowell – How soon we all forget. When Alex Smith lost his starting job to Kap, he was tied for the league lead in delay of game penalties with Tim Tebow since the start of the 2011 season (Harbaugh era). Its clearly a Harbaugh/Roman offense thing and NOT a QB thing.

    “Most delay of game penalties since 2011 opener: Tim Tebow 8, Alex Smith 8, Tony Romo 7.”

    December 12th, 2013 10:58 am

  16. Michael

    This article was written the game before Alex lost his starting job about how he burns too many time outs and takes to many delay of games. How easily could we re-write it today just subbing out Alex’s name for Colin:

    49ers penalties 2012: To Many Timeouts and delay of games


    December 12th, 2013 11:06 am

  17. Gopal

    I recall a quote from Harbaugh about watching film footage of himself in college, and realizing that he was never going to look like Joe Montana, and that he was therefore going to have to master the “other” skills that a QB needs in order to succeed.

    Did Joe Montana have great footwork like that from the very beginning, or did he too need continuous coaching in the NFL to get it right?

    December 12th, 2013 11:19 am

  18. Jack Smith

    This article should have the same review that the album “Shark Sandwich” received on the movie Spinal Tap. I read your articles for years on what a worthless piece of garbage Alex Smith was. Now since Kaepernick gives you a cold shoulder and doesn’t answer your middle school newspaper questions you praise Smith and dump on Kaepernick. There are a couple of reasons that Kaep’s numbers aren’t that great. He was playing with one wide receiver for most of the year and they have blown out inferior teams so they didn’t need to pass the ball. He has a passer rating of 87 and thrown twice as many touchdowns as interceptions, that is pretty good especially for a second year quarterback. A couple of weeks ago I thought you were going to ask for time alone with a Drew Brees fathead and he had a worse game against Seattle then what Kaepernick had. Seattle has a great defense and he didn’t make any game turning mistakes. I can’t believe the amount of garbage Kaep gets from the press just because he ignores them. The sporting media resembles the movie Mean Girls more then actual journalists. To go further lets assume Kaep throw’s for 4 more TD’s this year giving him 20. That is the first time a SF QB has thrown for at least 20 td’s in a year since Jeff Garcia did it 10 years ago. Plus let me throw a couple of stats out Joe Montana’s first full season was 19 td’s 12 int’s 88.4 qb rating and Steve Young had 8 td’s 13 int’s and 65.5 QB rating. He is basically on pace to have the same statistics as Montana. That year the 49ers were 13-3 this year they will be probably 11-5. I realize that you think if you were coaching the team the 49ers would have a run that would rival the UCLA Bruins of the 60′s but in reality it is pretty hard to win a Super Bowl. Besides talent some luck comes into play also what division you are in as well. If the 49ers were in any other division most likely they would be going for a division title and possible first round bye unfortunately they are in the same division as the Seahawks. If you don’t like Harbaugh and Kaepernick I am sure that Dennis Erickson and Tim Rattay have some free time maybe you should see if they want to go back being HC/QB again. Also, I hope/wish Kaepernick never answers another media question again. I like to watch him play football not answer questions.

    December 12th, 2013 11:25 am

  19. CohnZohn

    Stan,I know nothing about Harbaugh leaving the Niners.

    December 12th, 2013 11:35 am

  20. Mark M

    There is no comparison between the two. Kap is light years better in that he got us to the Super Bowl when Smith clearly never could have. Kap destroyed Green Bay in a way Alex could only dream. And down 17 – 0 against Atlanta, Smith would have folded like a house of cards. This was decided a year ago and this dredging up of a story is just a reach for emotional combat between the bitter Alex Smigh clown clubbers, who never understood qb play, and folks who are hoping Kap fulfills his promise shown a year ago. There is no coach or GM in the NFL that would choose Alex over Kap. This is pure silliness at this point.

    It’s so brutal watching Smith play, his check down pass game, his reluctance to take any chances, his horrid 3rd and long plays. He’s the ultimate non competitior, game manager. That translates to great QBR, gutless QB play, and always will limit a passing game. I’ll grant you this though, Alex is smart and with years of coaching, he probably does recognize defensive scheme quicker than Kap. But what else would you expect at this point?

    Kap’s limitations have been exposed. But they are not physical limitations. If he’s coachable, he should learn to recognize things quicker, and see the whole field better with time. I’m not sure about his footwork as you suggest, but it may be an issue as well. All things that can be worked out. Kap represents Super Bowl possibility…..obviously. How quickly people forget or are unwilling to admit to themselves. Alex is a transitional game manager QB for any team serious about winning a Super Bowl. He’ll allow a team to improve before they get a real QB to take them to the next level. Thanks for doing that Alex. At least you ended up finally helping us in that context, and then netted us two nice pics. I am grateful to him for that.

    December 12th, 2013 11:50 am

  21. Steve the cat rescuer

    This is one of your most thought provoking articles in a long time, so I did a bit of research about the connection between Wonderlic scores and QBs. The results puzzle me as to why Kaepernick can’t seem to grasp the playbook. Is it because he doesn’t spend enough time studying it? He sure seems to spend a lot of his time on social media. Check it out: http://outkickthecoverage.com/wonderlic-scores-leak-for-quarterbacks.php

    To piggyback on one of dharte’s points: As a “concession” to the Bay Area, the 49ers requested the NFL to not schedule any home Monday or Thursday night games in 2014. The reason: traffic along the 101 corridor would be gridlocked for hours and further inconvenience the many commuters who already have to deal with it. Just wondering how long before the 49ers give the Bay Area the finger and rescind their request? I’m guessing 2015.

    December 12th, 2013 11:52 am

  22. Selective Crane


    Kaepernick outplayed Wilson last week. Alex would have been eaten alive.

    Kaepernick doesn’t call the timeouts when there is :01 or :02 seconds on the clock; Harbaugh does, and you can always tell that Kaepernick is upset, because he thinks he would have gotten the play off. It happened in the Superbowl, for Christ’s sake (on the play that many believe would have won the game).

    Kaepernick has not been figured out; he’s been limited by his coaching staff on purpose. You think it’s a coincidence that last season, in the game against the Packers, the Niners unleashed Kaepernick on a level never before accomplished in the NFL? You think it’s a coincidence that when they needed it, the team had a perfect play for last week’s game? This coaching staff plays vanilla, thuggish football during the regular season, then when the playoffs come, they unveil new wrinkles. It’s standard operating procedure.

    You get it. But you love to be impertinent.

    December 12th, 2013 12:14 pm

  23. Tommy CostaRica

    Michael! Thank you! I’m reading all this jive about how Alex Smith never burned timeouts with pre-snap bugaboos and going WTF? Alex was way worse than Kap on this! It’s a Harbaugh problem. When you see Manning start his cadence he’s always got 10 seconds to play with. If you look at Alex this year he is the same; he misses a lot of throws that good QBs make. Kap has been messed up this year with the newly learned, “Protect yourself” notion and he’s sliding and hitting the dirt when he was jukin’ defenders last year. He’s not a good slider and he’s going to hurt himself hitting the dirt untouched.

    December 12th, 2013 12:35 pm

  24. Mase

    Two different QB’s who played in basically the same offense. So why then the similar results Lowell?

    December 12th, 2013 12:37 pm

  25. Johnc

    D’Hart, you can’t have it both ways . If Smith is better at looking downfield at receivers than Kaepernick then why did the Niners have so much trouble passing in the red zone in 2011?
    The common denominator is the coaches. According to your theory Smith should have had more completions and touchdowns. But the defense and the field goal kicker won the day.

    December 12th, 2013 3:56 pm

  26. Johnc

    To be clear I’m saying that Smith saw the receivers downfield alright but they were covered.

    December 12th, 2013 4:04 pm

  27. Stan

    Are you going to still be on the 9pm Radnich show’s debut? Or was Krueger’s rant that Kap should give columnists the finger, representing a withdrawn invitation?
    If you are on ,I might watch, otherwise eh,…

    December 12th, 2013 4:30 pm

  28. CohnZohn

    Stan, I’m scheduled for Dec. 26.

    December 12th, 2013 4:34 pm

  29. Red

    Apples to oranges… Kap hasn’t had nearly as much playing time as Smith and he’s still a better QB. The Chiefs have one of the leagues easiest schedules; the Niners one of the toughest. And BS, we had the same play clock/delay of game issues with Smith as we do Kap. There’s a lot to communicate before every snap… More a result of the offense and not so much the QB. Smith is the Chiefs’ long-term limitation now… Good riddance.

    December 12th, 2013 6:07 pm

  30. justin

    Bravo!; I generally cannot stand Lowell Cohn’s opinions on football, some of the times he writes controversy just for a story; however, I have been assessing the same thing he has with Smith/Kaepernick, Defenses know how to read Kap, and Kap is clearly panicky at the line, confused and it looks to me unsure of himself when he audibles. Now another question, thought could be raised that MAYBE the coach’s of the Niners aren’t too good at raising QBs?? – - I mean, Kaepernick with a full year at the helm of 1st String QB status, taking assuming 98% snaps in practice; comes out this year completely FLAT. With out taking any snaps, and certainly no defense had schemed for him, last year he took the niners to the super bowl, Makes you wonder, what exactly do the coach’s of the Niners’ tell their QBs, because when we saw Kaepernick’s innate ability to make the “RIGHT” play last year, we were all very excited to see our West Coast offense back in action, now this year has come and I feel like I’m watching the Niners two years ago….SMH.

    December 12th, 2013 7:46 pm

  31. russell

    Kaep vs Smith? I don’t care right now, this is the first time I simply just cracked up at Stan – I love the Van Morrison thing, not sure why, but that was completely random and semi-amusing. Thank you Stan.

    December 12th, 2013 8:14 pm

  32. k.g.

    dharte @ 9:48 AM, and Steve the cat rescuer @11:52 AM…I totally agree with both of you regarding the Stadium Site in Santa Clara. But what can you say when an Ownership refused to build in SF, because Dr. York got into a feud with former Mayor Newson, and didn’t want a Parking Garage built at the proposed stadium site in SF, or to have his team’s stadium in SF???

    Btw, what can you also say about an Ownership that planned & built a new Stadium with hardly no parking at all???

    December 12th, 2013 8:16 pm

  33. hacksaw

    Summary of best comments above:

    Kaepernick has far less NFL game experience than Smith and is already at least equal to him.

    Kaepernick is a lot cheaper right now than Smith.

    Trading Smith yielded solid draft picks.

    If Kaepernick even just = Smith, trading Smith resulted in more cap space and more draft picks. That is a smart move.

    December 12th, 2013 9:00 pm

  34. chris

    I think it’s clear that Alex Smith is the better QB compared to Kap based on experience and the way he’s led the Chiefs this year. But I don’t think he’s the type of player that Harbaugh likes. Harbaugh wants players who are arrogant with out of control egos that play like obnoxious maniacs on Sunday. Kapernick fits that mold much better than Alex Smith.

    December 12th, 2013 9:24 pm

  35. dharte

    @ johnc

    I agree with you if the gist of your argument is that ALex Smith had inferior talent around him. There were no receivers on that team; even Crabtree was a shadow of the player he became last year.

    Watch a replay of the Saints playoff game, or, if you want to be depressed, the NFC title game against the Giants: Vernon Davis, and no one else.

    But it was always Smith’s fault if the passing game stalled.

    December 12th, 2013 10:55 pm

  36. Neal

    I always admired your columns, and I would like you revisit this topic in 1 to 2 yrs, and I believe it will be alot clearer. The book has many chapters left .

    December 13th, 2013 6:54 am

  37. Dennis

    The bottom line on all of this is that Smith is as good as he is going to be. Kaepernick has a lot more upside. All other things being equal you go with the upside potential.

    December 13th, 2013 7:30 am

  38. CohnZohn

    Dennis, I totally agree with this comment.

    December 13th, 2013 9:10 am

  39. mike

    If posters are saying that Kap has no where the experience as AS and needs to be given more time to develop the skills necessary to be a quality QB, how do you rationalize his successes last season as opposed to his struggles this year? With all of that starting experience under his belt last season, including the intensity of the play-offs, plus an entire off-season and OTAs and QB school, he should be further advanced in his comprehension of the Niner offense and in reading defenses this year as opposed to being a novice last year when inserted as a starter. Many QBs struggle in their first year, even as a some times starter. Look at John Elway and Troy Aikman. Yet, Kap excelled last year as a first-time starter and has underperformed this year. Is it that the coaches have put too much on his plate and he has paralysis from analysis? Or what???

    December 13th, 2013 9:18 am

  40. MJ

    So much injustice towards Smith its frustrating.

    First off, we don’t know if Smith would or would not have taken SF to the Super Bowl last season, but to say for a fact he wouldn’t is pretty boneheaded. This was the same qb that in the first year with Harbs got the team to the NFC championship (on his back vs the Saints) and was 2 muffed kicks/fumbles & a quickly blown dead play where bradshaw fumbled, from going to the Super Bowl that year. You all want to bring up the passes to WR’s in that game while completely ignoring the 2 TD’s he threw to Davis. And who were those WR’s in that games…Crabtree, Swain, and Williams, and people talk about the lack of WR depth that Kaepernick has to deal with, ha! And yet the niners only lost by 3, Smith with his “poor” qb play and Eli throwing for close to or over 300 yards, and still, the difference was 3 points.

    Also, it seems that since Alex isnt a physical freak like Kaepernick, that somehow he isn’t athletic. Smith is more athletic than about 25 of the starters in the league today, outside of Newton, Kaep, Wilson, Luck and Rodgers. Athleticism is great and all, but the 3 best qb’s over the last decade, Brees, Brady and Peyton, are extremely unathletic, yet it hasn’t hindered their ability to win Super Bowls and garner MVP awards. Athleticism for a qb is way overblown, much like 40 yard dash times and how much one can bench press.

    The fact is that Kaep had an impressive game vs the Bears last season which blew everyones mind and he lived off that image, even though his performance going forward was nothing more than average, for the remainder of the season, then put on some 2nd half magic vs the Falcons. Since then he’s had 2 statistically good passing games (Ravens and Packers) but hasn’t shown to be anything better than average as a quaterback. Wins vs the Rams, Titans, Texans, Jags and whomever else was there gets completely over blown and his loses to the “good” teams in the league gets downplayed. Time to take off the beer goggles people and see him for what he is showing he really is, a uniquely gifted athlete that has yet to grasp the true concepts of being an NFL quarterback, yet feels so full of himself that he can act like a jerk to the media, and keeps stroking his ego with these commercials all over the place, his Beats commercial with the lyrics “go ahead tell everybody ‘I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man’ “, extremely premature and just ridiculous.

    December 13th, 2013 9:23 am

  41. Stan

    Purdy wrote his column on the rumor. I did learn one thing Lowell from Purdy. If Cal lets Sandy go? Hire Sy the AD at San Diego. He saw greatness in Harbaugh when even Al Davis ignored his own former assistant coach’s talent.

    Thanks Russell. Gee,on another blog the host is only posting insults to that innocuous joke. That’s the thanks I get for telling him the “truce” was worthless. And then he learned I was right.

    December 13th, 2013 9:34 am

  42. Dennis


    The reason Kaepernick was so good last year is because the 49ers introduced the read option which fit nicely into his skill set. The league was not prepared to deal with it and Keapernick flourished. This year the league figured out how to contain it. Now Kaepernick has to learn how to be an NFL style QB. He has superior skills to most NFL QB’s which means he has potential. Will he realize that potential? That remains to be seen. But as long as he shows flashes and progress there is hope. I wouldn’t trade him or get down on him just yet.

    December 13th, 2013 10:25 am

  43. Stan

    And that other blog? My brower says its blocking some malicious going on’s from the site. Whatever that means exactly. Just a warning if your worried about being tracked.

    Lowell’s is clear.

    December 13th, 2013 10:50 am

  44. Brett

    Recieved a Cordazone shot in one of my knees yesterday. Some of you know the problem; bone on bone with very littel or no miniscus. Have any of you had good results with this procedure? I seem to have some releif today.

    December 13th, 2013 1:20 pm

  45. Coach Bob

    It is unfair to say Kap got to the Super Bowl and Alex couldn’t. Alex missed in 2011 only because he had the extreme misfortune to have a punt returner fumble TWICE! Had Kap (or anybody else) had the same misfortune he wouldn’t had made it either, so I think its time we stop the “Alex can’t make it to the Super Bowl” line.
    I believe the reason Jim Harbaugh went with Kap was his extremely competative nature couldn’t stand to see Pete Carroll play with his new toy (Russell Wilson) and him not have one.
    I hope Kap can learn on the job, but for everyone involved(Kap, Alex, 49er faithful) it would have been better if Harbaugh would have let Alex finish what he started.

    December 13th, 2013 5:56 pm

  46. Johnc

    I was suggesting that Smith was better than we thought and that the coaches did not design plays for him to get receivers open just as is happening with Kaepernick as they insist he stay in the pocket and look for open receivers that are not there due to poor play design.

    December 13th, 2013 6:30 pm

  47. Johnc

    Especially in the redzone. We are seeing the same pattern this year as in 2011. We lost a Superbowl last year by failing to score in the redzone inside the five with time running out.

    December 13th, 2013 6:38 pm

  48. Stan

    The local yokels are saying Lowell..Jim would go for 10 mill a year to Texas. But,he didn’t take about that to go coach the Dolphins did he? He took Jed’s stupid low ball effort that with pure dumb luck on Jed’s part, worked.
    Jim might leave the 49ers..to coach the NFL elsewhere. I don’t see college ball taking him out of the NFL. The Yorks and Jed might get on his nerves..but they sure ain’t the NFL.
    Maybe Jim and Elway?..or Chicago?..

    December 13th, 2013 8:23 pm

  49. Streetglide

    Jim would flourish in the north Cold weather, running the rock, that’s what he is all about. I see him in Detroit or with the Vikings…

    December 14th, 2013 10:28 am

  50. Bob In Beaverton

    As I recall, there seemed to be a problem prior to Harbaugh arriving about getting signals in to the quarterback. I have this vision of Jimmy Raye in his fishing hat trying to get Paraag Marathe to sign off on an off-tackle play before sending it down to the huddle.

    December 14th, 2013 11:27 am

  51. Chris

    As usual, Cohn reveals the ugly gorilla in the room. Everyone loves Kaepernick, blah blah blah, but he is developing too slowly. A lot of that has to do with the pistol offense in Nevada, but he simply doesn’t think fast enough when up against good defenses. He remains a one pass option QB; if his primary receiver is covered, he panicks and runs. As for his amazing arm strength and speed, he doesn’t use enough of those attributes for them to matter. Hopefully, he will and will throw long passes to receivers other than Vernon Davis.

    December 26th, 2013 2:07 pm

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