Assessing the 49ers' backup QB situation if Alex Smith is injured and misses time.
The 49ers are grooming second-year backup Colin Kaepernick for a potential starting role in the next couple of years, but Smith provides the safest option for the team to contend again in 2012. The 49ers have gone 17-6 in Smith's past 23 starts dating to the 2010 season and counting playoffs. While it's doubtful Smith will limit turnovers as effectively as he has recently, he would have a better chance than a less-experienced quarterback.
Kaepernick has yet to start in the exhibition or regular season. He had zero touchdowns and five interceptions during his lockout-affected crash course of a preseason. Kaepernick attempted five passes during the regular season. His athleticism would add excitement. Coach Jim Harbaugh liked Kaepernick enough to trade up for him in the draft. We simply haven't seen enough from Kaepernick to feel comfortable about his readiness right now.
Free-agent addition Josh Johnson played for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. His familiarity with the offense would help. But Johnson also had an 0-5 starting record with Tampa Bay, leaving him much to prove.
Confidence rating (out of 100) if Smith is out for an extended period: 35.