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Saturday, December 15, 2012
49ers' Smith and Kaepernick in starts only

By Mike Sando

The San Francisco 49ers' decision to replace Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick will be measured, in the end, by overall team success.

Wins, losses and ties.

That is not necessarily a fair or accurate way to evaluate the decision, of course.


As I wrote following the 49ers' loss to the New York Giants in the playoffs last season, "A successful first season under [Jim] Harbaugh guarantees nothing for the future. The rest of the NFC West appears to be gaining. The offseason will give the 49ers' future opponents time to figure out what this coaching staff sprung on the NFL so impressively this season. The 49ers are unlikely to encounter a lower Super Bowl bar than the one they tripped over Sunday."

Reaching the NFC title game with Smith last season remains the baseline expectation for the team. We cannot know, of course, whether the 49ers would have reached, exceeded or fallen short of that standard had Smith remained the starter. It's just tough to argue with what we know was true just last season.

Here on the NFC West blog, we'll make every effort to evaluate the players based on what each contributed to the team. We will not assume the 49ers would have reached the Super Bowl with Smith.

It's still early.

As the 49ers prepare to face New England in Week 15, I've put together a chart showing each quarterback's production for the games he started. This eliminates the plays Kaepernick made in relief. It attempts to compare apples to apples, but there aren't enough in the basket to render a final verdict.