Alex Smith may have to get used to standing on 49ers’ sideline

San Francisco's Alex Smith, left, shown shaking hands with New Orleans' Drew Brees, remained on the sidelines during the 49ers' victory over the Saints on Sunday.
(Bill Haber / Associated Press)

Alex Smith may not have lost his job as the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback.

But he may have had it taken from him.

Smith was cleared for contact Sunday morning after missing the previous week’s game with a concussion. But instead of joining his teammates on the field against the New Orleans Saints that afternoon, Smith stood on the sideline, ready to go with helmet on, only to watch popular backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick lead the 49ers to victory for the second week in a row.

Do you think the Pittsburgh Steelers would have left starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the sidelines Sunday had he been cleared to play?

Coach Jim Harbaugh implied after the game that the decision was based more on Smith’s health than anything else but would not commit to a starting quarterback for next week.


“We’ll address that at a later time,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll look at the game and make the best decision for the team going forward.”

It’s obviously a tough call for the 49ers. Smith leads the league in completion percentage (70%) and is fifth in passer rating (104.1). He took the team to within a couple of plays of the Super Bowl last year and a 6-2-1 record this year.

But he just isn’t spectacular, and Kaepernick looks like he could be a superstar in the making. This season he has thrown for three touchdowns and one interception, plus he’s rushed for four more scores.

Ever since the 49ers took Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 draft, it seemed that he, not Smith, would be the team’s quarterback of the future. Smith’s concussion has given Harbaugh and company a chance to see exactly what they’ve got in Kaepernick.

Now it looks like the future might have arrived a little sooner than expected.


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