Familiar situation: Smith played role in 2006 QB switch

November 22, 2012, 4:39 pm
Share This Post

Coach Jim Harbaugh's reported decision to go with second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick over veteran Alex Smith at this point in the season is not totally unprecedented.But in the most similar situation in recent memory, it was Alex Smith who had a hand in making the move backfire.In 2006, Jake Plummer started all 16 games for the Denver Broncos. The team went 13-3 in the regular season and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game.The next season with Plummer starting the first 11 games, the Broncos were 7-4 and apparently heading toward the playoffs. But Plummer had just a 68.8 passer rating with 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.Coach Mike Shanahan benched the 32-year-old Plummer in favor of rookie Jay Cutler, a first-round draft pick. The Broncos stumbled down the stretch with a 2-3 record, though Cutler was statistically better than Plummer.Smith, in his second season with the 49ers, was the quarterback on the other side of the field when the 49ers traveled to Denver and came away a 26-23 victory in overtime. It was the final week of the regular season, and it prevented the Broncos from making the playoffs.Six years later, it's Smith who is being benched in favor of the young player, according to a report Wednesday night from San Diego-based Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated. The decision was not injury-related, Trotter reported.REPORT: Smith informed Kaepernick will start
"I'm going with Kaepernick," Harbaugh told Smith, a source told Trotter. "Alex, I'm sorry."Later, ESPN producer Seth Markman posted via Twitter that Smith told ESPNs Trent Dilfer, a former 49ers teammate, that he was informed only that Kaepernick would get the first-team snaps in practice.Either way, it looks as if Harbaugh has decided on a change. What makes this move unique is that Smith, at least statistically, is having a very good season.RATTO: Impulsive Harbaugh goes all in
Smith ranks first in the NFL in completion percentage (70.0), third in the NFL in passer rating (104.1), third in average gain per attempt (7.98 yards), and fifth in touchdown and interception percentages. He is eighth in the league in third-down passing with a 94.5 rating. But he ranks 31st in the NFL in pass attempts, and 29th in yards passing.The 49ers own the league's No. 1 rushing attack behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, who own averages of 5.3 and 5.0 yards per attempt, respectively.Kaepernick took full advantage of his opportunity, which presented itself when Smith missed Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears with a concussion. Kaepernick pushed the ball down the field and showed a side to the 49ers' offense that Smith does not often exhibit. Kaepernick completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.In evaluating Kaepernick's performance, Harbaugh called it "A-plus, plus."