NFL football is a cutthroat line of work, as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is currently discovering.
Smith had done everything right. He led the 49ers to a 6-2 start and the top seed in the NFC West, dropping only two games to a Vikings team on a hot-streak and the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Last year he threw fewer interceptions than any other starting quarterback, one fewer than Aaron Rodgers and 18 fewer than league leader Ryan Fitzpatrick. He also leads the league in completion percentage in 2012 at 70 percent.
But when Smith suffered a concussion in the 49ers’ Week 10 bout against the St. Louis Rams, coach Jim Harbaugh filled his place with second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Taking over in the first half, Kaepernick led the 49ers to a 24-24 tie. While the result was a disappointing way to end a rivalry game, Kaepernick brought a new mobility to the team’s offense.
The following week, the 49ers routed a Chicago Bears team that boasted a 7-2 record and held the top seat in the NFC North, slicing and dicing one of the league’s best defenses. While Kaepernick put forth an impressive performance in his fist NFL start, much of the 49ers success was attributable to their own defensive juggernaut, which recorded six sacks, two picks, and a safety on the day.
When Week 12 rolled around and Smith was cleared to play, Harbaugh opted to keep Kaepernick at the helm. Smith watched from the sideline as Kaepernick led the team to another victory, this time over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
The result left the 49ers sitting pretty at 8-2-1 and on top of their division, but chances are Alex Smith did not celebrate the victory on Bourbon Street.