Colin Kaepernick vs. Alex Smith: A statistical comparison

People are criticizing Colin Kaepernick, saying he really isn’t any different than Alex Smith, whose performance until the concussion was pretty darn good and whose QB rating was in the top 5 of the league, and, frankly, there are valid points there.

Even though Kaepernick is a different player with a different skill set than Smith, why are the performances so similar on the field?

In other words, by going to Kaepernick even though Smith passed the concussion tests, what has the 49er offense gained on the field in terms of results and points?

It seems to me that although Kaepernick appears to be a more explosive player both with legs and a rocket for an arm, if you took the numbers off the jerseys, would you be able to tell the difference between the two based upon the productivity and style of offensive play the Niners are running?

Smith ran the spread option at Utah for Urban Meyer and has shown the capability to make the same “give it” or “keep it” reads, although he is not as fast as Kaepernick. And are the Niners really utilizing Kaepernick’s superior arm and his deep ball ability on normal downs and distances with regular personnel on the field?

Other than Jim Harbaugh playing Kaepernick because that was Harbaugh’s personal choice, after 4-plus weeks, what have the Niners gained with on the field productivity?

Are sacks down; TD passes up; completion percentage higher; QB yardage on the ground better; scoring production up; 3rd down conversion percentage improved; red zone productivity improved, etc.?

Here are some statistical comparisons between the two QBs.  I did not calculate the 24-24 tie game with the Rams into this equation because both QBs played, making it an impossible game to factor into the following data.

Also, all points in each game are factored into the equation, including safeties and defensive scores.

Smith has 8 games and Kaepernick has 4 games where they were the starters and played the entire game, and although the totals are different, the percentages can be compared.

Smith has had 8 complete starts and the Niners have scored 189 points when he was the starter for a per game average of 23.62.

In Kaepernick’s 4 starts, the Niners have scored 103 points for a per game average of 25.75.

Smith had scores on 14 of 23 red zone opportunities for 60.8%.

Kaepernick has had 8 scores in 17 red zone opportunities for 47%.

Smith had 88 offensive series in 8 games for a per game average of 11 drives.

Kaepernick has had 44 offensive series for a per game average of 11 drives.

Smith had 21 TDs for a TD % of 23.8% and 2.625 TDs per game.

Kaepernick has had 11 TDs for a TD % of 36.3% and 2.75 TDs per game.

Smith had 14 field goals for a 1.75 field goals per game average.

Kaepernick has had 8 field goalss for a 2.0 field goals per game average.

As starters, both QBs are benefitting from 11 series per game; Kaepernick is scoring 2.13 more points per game; Smith’s red zone productivity is 13.8% better than Kaepernick’s.

Kaepernick is averaging 0.125 more TDs per game and 0.25 more field goals per game.

The difference between the two QBs is microscopic. It seems Harbaugh’s preference is the only reason Kaepernick is playing QB now that Smith is concussion free, because all of the skills that Kaepernick is supposed to have that are better than Smith seemingly have not been converted into points and productivity.

I guess one can say that a coaches’ perception eventually becomes reality in that if Harbaugh believes Kaepernick is a better talent and the guy to lead them to the Super Bowl in New Oleans, it eventually becomes reality, or at least it better, because if not, the what-if game will be played in the media and in the locker room ad naseum.

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