When the 49ers drafted Colin Kaepernick, they did so with the express intent to someday — someday very soon — install him as their starting quarterback.
He’d just put up collegiate numbers, with his legs and with his MLB-drafted right arm, akin to the cartoonish stats posted by none other than Cam Newton.
Granted, what Kaepernick did at Nevada came against far less stiff competition than what Newton torched while leading powerhouse Auburn in the Southeastern Conference, but talent is talent. And if there’s one thing 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh knows, it’s talent at the quarterback position.
General manager Trent Baalke, we now know, has a pretty keep eye for studliness, too.
Which brings us to Alex Smith, the man Kaepernick was drafted to usher out of town.
Harbaugh, as far as we know and have been told, saw something in Smith that the rest of us did not. What we saw was season after season of struggle in living up to his No. 1 overall status.
What he saw, as far as we know but have NOT been told, was at the very least something of an hourglass in which enough sands of time sat to give Kaepernick some time to grow as a pro.
That Smith ended up playing far better than any of us had a right to expect essentially doubled as a second hourglass, giving the 49ers the luxury of even more time to groom Kaepernick for the job.
And based on what we saw in Kaepernick’s emergency outing against the St. Louis Rams last Sunday, that time has been well-spent. The kid showed more growth from his first snap to his last in one game than we saw in Smith’s first four of five years.
Does that mean Smith’s concussion should throw wide open the door to change? Absolutely not.
Look, it’s not like Smith has been bad this season. He’s had a clunker or two, but what quarterback hasn’t this year? Not to compare the respective talent levels, but Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers have had bad games this year, too. It happens.
And it might happen again. But that doesn’t mean Smith doesn’t deserve to try to finish what he started last season. He’s persevered through too much to be kicked to the curb now.
Kaepernick’s time will come. Perhaps as soon as next season. Perhaps sooner, if the fog in Smith’s head doesn’t sufficiently clear.
If it does, though, Smith has earned the right to command the 49ers’ huddle until Kaepernick is hammer-to-the-head obviously better.
Right now, it’s at best a tossup, and here the old boxing adage applies: To take down the champ — Smith won an NFC West title last year, remember — you have to knock his ass out.
Kaepernick isn’t even ahead on points just yet.
WHY BO-MEL WON: Anyone who uses the fact that the Baltimore Orioles’ payroll was about $30 million higher than that of the A’s as a reason for Bob Melvin’s appointment as AL Manager of the Year misses the point.
That argument dismisses the fact that really bad contracts are a way of life in the bigs.
The more persuasive argument is that Melvin didn’t have a single rock star on his roster when the season started, and by the time it was over he had created three or four.
He did a better job than Buck Showalter. Period.
SPEED ROUND: The BBWAA voters nailed it this year. Hard to argue with any of their choices, right down to Miguel Cabrera’s AL MVP. Rookie of the Year Mike Trout was amazing, but Triple Crowns are simply too ridiculously rare to go unrecognized outside some silly hat. … The least-reported great story in baseball finally got its due when Buster Posey was named MVP. The man’s career was in jeopardy at this time last year, and now he has two World Series rings as a cleanup hitter in his only two full seasons in The Show. Incredible. … Sir Chuck doesn’t think the Warriors’ affable Aussie will ever be the same. Hard not to love Andrew Bogut, but it’s hard to fault Charles Barkley at this point. Seeing is believing. … Who misses the NHL? Anyone? Beuller? Anyone?
Mychael Urban has covered Bay Area sports for more than 22 years as a contributor to Comcast SportsNet, CSNBayArea.com, KNBR, MLB.com, ESPN The Magazine and various newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.