With Colin Kaepernick now targeted to start for the 49ers this Sunday at New Orleans, it would be natural for Alex Smith to feel hurt and angry.
Smith, after all, has done nothing to lose his job as the team’s No. 1 quarterback. He is 20-6 as a starter since Game No. 1 of the 2011 season and is No. 4 in the NFL in passer rating this season. Over his past two games he has completed 25-of-27 passes for 304 yards with four TDs, no interceptions and a passer rating of 153.2.
Those are terrific numbers, and it’s easy to forget that his performance against the Arizona Cardinals on “Monday Night Football” Oct. 29 was almost perfect. He was selected the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week off his play in that game.
So coach Jim Harbaugh’s decision to go with second-year pro Colin Kaepernick at quarterback Sunday vs. the Saints – first reported by Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter on Wednesday – would be understandably tough for Smith to swallow.
But Smith -- who had to sit out the Monday night game against the Bears this week with a concussion -- is taking the high road.
Before practice Wednesday, Smith told reporters that he wanted to set a “great example” by the way he and Kaepernick have handled all the attention this week about who will start the next game.
Smith said that “it’s not a bad thing” for the team to have two effective quarterbacks, but the fact there is only one ball is “what makes it tough.”
Added Smith: “If you can’t be happy for your teammate’s success, you’re playing the wrong sport. Go play tennis or golf or something. That’s ridiculous, I think. That doesn’t belong in team sports, in my opinion. It’s the quarterback position. It gets a lot of attention. We’re going to get talked about.”
Smith’s concussion, suffered in a game against the Rams Nov. 11, opened the door for Kaepernick to start his first NFL game.
He was brilliant in Monday’s 32-7 victory over Chicago, completing 16-of-23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, leaving Harbaugh with a tough decision: go back to Smith – once he’s medically cleared – or stay with Kaepernick.
According to Trotter, Harbaugh has decided to go with Kaepernick. The former Nevada star will get the first-team reps this week, according to another report from ESPN.
Trotter reported a source told him Harbaugh met with Smith Wednesday to say: “I’m going with Kaepernick. Alex, I’m sorry.”
Earlier Wednesday, Harbaugh had declined to say publicly which quarterback would start in New Orleans.
“The way we view it right now is we have two quarterbacks that we’re confident in, that have won for us and we believe in,” Harbaugh told reporters. “To me it’s the opposite of a controversy. A controversy is an argument between opposing points of view. This is a decision that will be made from a team aspect, coming from the same direction.”
Niners players and Harbaugh were effusive in their praise of Kaepernick after Monday night’s game against the Bears. Kaepernick showed great touch, a strong arm and good mobility and Harbaugh said his decision-making was excellent.
“It was A-plus-plus,” Harbaugh told the media after watching film of the game this week. “He did a great job. Decision-making, everything he did was in the high 90s. A-plus.”
Receiver Kyle Williams had told the Chronicle that he’d “never seen anything” like Kaepernick’s performance in his first NFL start against a stout defense like the Bears’.
Now, 49ers fans will get to see how this next chapter plays out, with Kaepernick leading the 7-2-1 Niners against a New Orleans team that started out 0-4 but has now gotten hot and climbed back to .500 at 5-5.