Sports Opinion & Analysis

CONTROVERSY!

In NFL on November 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

By Jonathan Danielson

It’s been eighteen years since the San Francisco 49ers last won a Super Bowl, and thirteen since their last legitimate franchise quarterback, Steve Young, retired. Since then, the Niners have been on a never-ending pursuit of chasing the glory years, and searching for a man under center who could bring them another banner.

“How bad do you miss us?”

When the Niners hit rock bottom in 2004, they thought they found their man by drafting Utah quarterback, Alex Smith. Due to injuries, ineptitude and simply poor play, Smith never developed into the man San Franciscans hoped he would, that is, at least until Jim Harbaugh and a little consistency at the offensive coordinator position finally arrived in the Bay Area in 2011.

By then though, the 49ers had already spent their second round draft pick on Nevada quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. Smith hadn’t produced during his time in red and gold, so why not spend a high pick on a guy you feel confident about? I mean, since drafting Smith in 2005, Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, Chris Weinke, J.T. O’Sullivan, and Troy Smith had all also started at the position. It wasn’t like Smith had a lock on the job.

Yet, in 2011 Smith finally played like everyone expected he would on draft day, some 2,912 days (or so) before. In fact, if it wasn’t for a Kyle Williams fumble at the last second, Smith would have most likely joined the likes of Montana and Young, by leading the team to another Super Bowl appearance (and in all probability, considering their defense, a title) like everyone thought he would the day he joined the team.

If Smith loses his job to Kaepernick and doesn’t get a chance to take the team to a Super Bowl, this memory will sting even more than it already does.

In 2012, Smith again was playing at a high level, yet after suffering a concussion was replaced by Kaepernick for the Monday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears. Kaepernick instantly impressed, and because Smith only has one good year under his belt (and as a consequence, the perception that maybe he is just a one-hit wonder), people in northern California are beginning to wonder just who should be the starter when the game matters the most.

At this point in Smith’s career, it would be really unfair (and quite frankly sad) to pull the rug out from underneath him, especially considering the golden opportunity this team has to make a deep run into the playoffs. Yet, due to the extremely high expectations placed on the team coming into the season, it is Super Bowl or Bust for the Niners, and anything else besides another Lombardi Trophy is an epic disaster. With that understood, in his first NFL start Kaepernick looked more athletic, poised, and confident than Smith ever has throughout the entirety of his seven-year career.

And if he looks this good now, what would he look like after a few practices taking snaps with the offense’s first string?

While I think Smith has had a lot of hard luck in the league, and that his story, should he rise and lift the team to a Super Bowl, would be one of the better stories in the NFL, football is about winning, first and foremost. And right now, while others might disagree, I don’t think anyone gives the 49ers a better chance at that than their second year backup.

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