Two weeks as a starting quarterback in the NFL is no way to properly judge the barometer of success, but San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick may just challenge that thought.
On the road against a suddenly hot New Orleans team, Kaepernick set the tone early with a game-opening touchdown drive capped off by a beautiful run in an equally impressive 31-21 victory. For the game, the second-year pro out of Nevada finished a healthy 16-25 with two total touchdowns and one interception. In two games as a starter now (his first was a win against the Bears), he is 32-48 with just one turnover.
Finding a quarterback in this league is as important as fielding a full roster; it's a necessity if you want to sustain success, and often times can be as challenging as solving a Rubik's Cube. Kaepernick was highly touted as a second-round pick for the 49ers, but he was thought to be a severe work in progress as a pure passer. A terrific athlete with great speed and mobility, he had been used sparingly until the injury to Alex Smith a couple of weeks ago.
During a recent conversation with a member of the San Francisco organization, HuffPost learned that despite Kaepernick's struggles, the staff loves his effort and natural talent.
The 49ers, through the unfortunate injury to Smith, may have very well stumbled upon their future earlier than expected thanks to Kaepernick, who thus far has been very accurate when throwing on the move. And, while Smith has always been deemed a mobile quarterback, his replacement provides the read-option threat, as was evident Sunday against the Saints.
Moving forward, if head coach Jim Harbaugh stays with his youngster under center, he can lean on Frank Gore as one of the league's true workhorse backs. Moreover, the sheer versatility that Kaepernick brings is a welcome sign for an offense that normally struggles to produce big plays through the air, ranking 28th in total passing yards.
Harbaugh, with a 2 1/2 game lead in the NFC West, has the luxury of an elite defense paired with a suddenly potent offensive attack. The issue with Smith at the helm, despite his consistently solid but never spectacular play, was whether or not the 49ers had the firepower to come back from a large deficit in a one-and-out playoff scenario. In leading the team to the NFC Championship bout last season, he did so against New Orleans the previous week, only to have a dreadful follow-up against the Giants. With a defense that ranks near the top of every statistical category -- a defense that Jerry Rice told HuffPost was "unquestionably the best in the NFL" -- the choice for Harbaugh essentially comes down to risk. Smith will rarely hurt you, but he will rarely win games either. Kaepernick, at least thus far, seems to be the home-run hitter who is also willing to hit singles when needed. In other words, the best of both worlds.
Who would you choose?
ED Note: A previous entry stated that Kaepernick won his first start on the road. It was at home.
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