Watching 49er quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick in Friday night’s preseason opener it was apparent the quarterbacks are still nowhere near being ready for the regular season. Smith had only practiced one week with the 49ers first-team offense before passing 2 of 7 for 10 yards with one fumble that was recovered by the 49ers. Kaepernick passed for more yards, 117, than Smith but he had two interceptions and two fumbles which were also recovered by the 49ers. Both quarterbacks should have played better but given the circumstances of a new offensive system to learn and only having a couple of weeks to be game ready some leeway is given. However the leeway is more for Kaepernick than Smith.
Smith is a seven year veteran who has never looked like a veteran on the field. Smith did great by organizing workouts with 49er players during the lockout and the decision to give him a playbook before the lockout started was at the time genius. Looking at Smith’s performance Friday night it seemed as if was never given a playbook and never organized the workouts. My confidence in Smith being able to at least be a reliable quarterback that does not make mistakes, cause turnovers and can put the 49ers in position to win games is almost non-existent. This Saturday the 49ers will go up against their Bay Area rivals the Raiders in what could be Smith’s most important game of his career. Smith must play significantly better than last week’s stinker, and he also must play better than rookie Kaepernick if he wants to continue being the presumed number one quarterback on the depth chart. The 49er Faithful have basically written off Smith as a number one quarterback, which head coach Jim Harbaugh I think is starting to realize as well.
Two indications of Smith losing favor with Harbaugh is the coaches comments after the game on Friday and the 49ers working out quarterback Dante Culpepper. Here is what Harbaugh said after the draft on who would be the starting quarterback for the 49ers,
“If I am a betting man, I’m betting on Alex Smith.”
Harbaugh’s comments after the game were different than his comments after the draft in which he anointed Smith the number one quarterback. Here are Harbaugh’s comments from after the game,
“I know as a quarterback, when you’re competing for a starting job, you’d like to make it clear-cut. And so far, it hasn’t had a chance to be clear-cut yet. So we’ll continue to practice, and I don’t want those guys worrying about.”
Even with Kaepernick’s one week jump on Smith in training camp the quarterback showed signs of a rookie making his first appearance in the NFL. Kaepernick will work out those mistakes but he will need to show it during a game. The Raiders game on Saturday is a great opportunity for Kaepernick to make the decision easier for Harbaugh on who should be the starter week one.
Whether it’s Smith or Kaepernick who comes out on top as the starting quarterback the 49ers depth chart has no veteran QB’s. In training camp the depth chart is Smith, Kaepernick and undrafted rookies McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Jeremiah Masoli. Chances are neither undrafted rookie will make the roster for week one.
With no veteran backups the 49ers worked out quarterback Dante Culpepper on Monday however he did not sign with the 49ers. Culpepper would be a welcomed veteran addition to the team. He is in the twilight of his career and played last season in the United Football League in which threw 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He would only be considered as the third-string quarterback and only be inserted in a game if Smith and Kaepernick were hurt. I would take Culpepper as the third-string QB over Bethel-Thompson or Masoli any day. It is unclear why Culpepper did not sign with the 49ers but is clear the 49ers cannot enter the regular season without a backup veteran quarterback or with Smith and Kaepernick as the only options under center.