San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was having one of the best statistical seasons of his career when he went down with a concussion in Week 10 against the Rams.One week later, back-up Colin Kaepernick took his job with a strong performance against the Bears. And two months later, Smith sat on the sidelines while his team made the Super Bowl and Kaepernick became a star.
Smith talked about the sudden turn of events with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King. Here’s what he said:
“It sucks, to put it frankly. Tough pill to swallow.”
“It’s football. Guys get hurt all the time. Obviously, I feel like I earned the job, and I was doing better and better. But being able to be out there all the time is part of the deal. I knew very well when I went out that I was giving him [Kaepernick] a shot at the job. And now we’ve seen what Colin is capable of. He’s a very unique talent, and he’s made the most of his opportunity. At the same time, this is exactly how I got my start in college.”
Last week, he admitted, “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bittersweet.”
It’s easy to forget Smith’s story. For the last few years, he has embodied the average quarterback — a game-manager who won’t lose you a game with turnovers, but won’t win you one with big plays either. He was consistently decent and unspectacular, almost blending in to the background of the game.
And that’s what made him expendable.
When Kaepernick came in, he quickly took on the narrative role of the anti-Smith. Kaepernick took risks and had a dynamic skill set, in stark juxtaposition to Smith’s slow-and-steady approach. He created a frenzy of excitement that buried everything — including a potential story about Smith losing his job in the middle of his best season because he got a concussion.
If Smith was a more memorable player — or if Kaepernick was a duller one — this might have become a big deal. But it hasn’t, and Smith has had to carry on while the NFL world celebrates his back-up.
Here’s the play that knocked him out originally:
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