Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick: Quarter-Season Statistical Comparison

Since we're 1/4 of the way through the season, it seems the first real opportunity to look back at how these two quarterbacks have fared since the trade. I enjoy watching both players and I root for their success (which all roots in being a 49ers fan, and for me Smith has earned the once-a-49er-always-a-49er moniker). But inevitably people will have curiosity in each of their individual performances since it was such a hotly-debated switch at the position.

As we look at the stats after the 1/4 pole, Alex Smith has outperformed Colin Kaepernick in almost every major statistical category. Kap does have him in one important one, which is YPA. However, Smith has him everywhere else. Why this is and what it means can come later in this post and in the comments, but the numbers look as follows:

4 games (1/4 of season): Smith/Kap

  • Passer Rating: 89.9/81.0
  • Completion Percentage: 60.3/58.1
  • Passing Yards: 957/856
  • YPG: 239.3/214.0
  • YPA: 6.6/7.3
  • TD-INTs: 7-2/5-4
  • Fumbles Lost: 0/3
  • Rushing Yards: 151/140
  • Total Turnovers: 2/7
  • Wins-Losses: 4-0/2-2

Neither player is lighting it up or stinking it up, as Smith is around the top end of the middle and Kap the bottom end of the middle. However, the main differences (aside from the Chiefs having twice as many wins as the 49ers) are that Smith has led to 112 total yards more production while turning the ball over 5 fewer times. Kap was supposed to outperform Smith when it came to total production (which was the entire point of the switch) while still limiting turnovers, but neither have happened so far in 2013. Yes, Kap is throwing the ball fewer times per game, but he still trails in the efficiency stats despite this.

In defense of Kap, he has played a much tougher schedule and has a decimated receiving corps (although Boldin + VD in 3 of 4 games isn't mince meat). However, he's on a team that was just in the Superbowl while Smith is riding a team that was just 2-14. Additionally, the Chiefs are down their top-two TEs and have injuries along the starting offensive line. I don't think it's fair for either side to try to excuse one guy into a perceived disadvantage.

Some may point to the experience difference, but is that not just a cop-out? After all, Kap was put in to give the 49ers the best chance to win right now, so he doesn't the luxury of the "he's young" patience that he probably deserves (which falls on Harbaugh's decision). Not Kap's fault, of course. He has done a good job overall, but suddenly we see the 49ers coaches taking a step back and realizing they have to treat him like early-2011 Alex Smith to have success (power running game, easy 1-2 reads). As an aside to those that want to ride the experience rationale: Kap has a luxury Smith has never had, a 3rd year in a single offensive system, let alone it being a good one. That in of itself cancels out the experience difference, because one is a QB's breeding ground and the other is a QB's pit of death.

We all have our views on the QBs, the switch and everything in between, but this was more of a look back at how each guy is doing as opposed to a session of pro/anti qb1/qb2 support/troll. I support both guys, and everyone knows I always leaned Smith in the decision, particularly in the short term during the Superbowl window that I suspect may have already closed (not saying a new window won't open soon, just that the first window is closing). I don't need my inherent it should have been Smith digging it self up all the time, because I like Kap, even if I've been quite disappointed by him in 2013 so far.

For a little bit of fun, let's take a look at the quarter-season projections for future reference (at seasons end).

4 game projection over full 16-game season: Smith/Kap

  • Passer Rating: 89.9/81.0
  • Completion Percentage: 60.3/58.1
  • Passing Yards: 3828/3424
  • TD-INTs: 28-8/20-16
  • Fumbles Lost: 0/12
  • Rushing Yards: 604/560
  • Total Turnovers: 8/28

Obviously nobody expects these numbers to be the season end results (especially Kap's 28 turnovers or Smith's 604 rushing yards) but it does put into perspective the difference in results so far. I'm pretty sure Kap's numbers will improve quite notably and it will match much more favorably. At least, I hope so for the 49ers sake. I also expect Smith's QB rating to rise a bit but hover near there as his YPA rises in that offense (he's doing the typical Smith in a new system: ultra careful, then gradually take a few more shots over time). The most fun will be both of these guys flourishing, and that's my hope for the rest of the season.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.

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