What Kaepernick learned from Smith

Colin Kaepernick had nothing but good things to say about his former superior Alex Smith, whom he replaced midway through the 2012 season en route to a Super Bowl berth. The two square off Sunday for the first time since San Francisco traded Smith to Kansas City before last season.

In many ways, Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith are polar opposites.

Kaepernick can wow with a big arm and elite speed. Smith excels in the short and intermediate passing game and won't electrify spectators by hitting a tight end 60 yards down field. The "game manager" moniker that seems to only describe mediocre quarterbacks who rarely turn the ball over would only be applied to one of these two when comparisons are made.

While Smith continued to improve during his time with the Kansas City Chiefs, which included a 9-0 start and playoff appearance in his first season in 2013, the 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh believed the pinnacle of the sport is more easily reached with the Kaepernick at the helm.

San Francisco did Smith a solid and sent him to place where he would have a starting job with a brilliant offensive mind in former Eagles coach Andy Reid when they traded him in the spring of 2013. Having one of the league's fastest and most versatile backs in Jamaal Charles hasn't hurt, either.

That trade originally netted San Francisco two second-round picks, which Trent Baalke has since turned into three players and a 2015 fourth rounder. Through a bevvy of more trades, the 49ers wound up with second-round pick Tank Carradine and third-rounder Corey Lemonier in 2013. In this year's draft, they landed Carlos Hyde and Chris Borland. And they still have the 2015 fourth rounder.

Kaepernick was forthcoming Wednesday when talking about Smith, which is notable because most of his media sessions are nondescript.

Smith possesses skills where Kaepernick was deficient, which in some ways made him the perfect mentor for the newly minted franchise quarterback. Kaepernick had nothing but glowing things to say about Smith, while Smith said he holds no bitterness toward the 49ers given his fondness for his situation in Kansas City.

Here are Kaepernick's kind words for his predecessor:

How do you feel about facing your former teammate and mentor, Chiefs QB Alex Smith?

Kaepernick: "Well, I really don’t get to face him, our defense does. But, Alex has done a lot of great things in this league. He’s done a lot of great things to help me. Nothing but the utmost respect for him."

Do you still have a relationship with him? Do you still talk to in the offseason or--?

Kaepernick: “We’ve talked here and there. Great guy, but we have our own things that we’re doing as well.”

I’m sure you learned a lot from him, but if you could boil it down to one thing, what’s the biggest thing that you either observed watching him or he taught you when he was the starter?

Kaepernick: “Just how he viewed the game as far as defenses, how to attack them, what routes are good vs. what defenses, and how to manipulate a defense.”

When you took over the job and his role changed, how much grace did he show during that and it sure seemed like it from our perspective, but--?

Kaepernick: “One of the classiest people I’ve ever been around, just an all-around great guy. I don’t think anyone could have handled it any better than he did."

Do you think the way he handled it went a ways towards how the locker room ended up handling it, that he sort of set the tone for the way the locker room reacted to the news?

Kaepernick: “I think he definitely made things go a lot smoother. The way he handled things didn’t turn it into a controversy in the locker room, and that just shows the character that he has not just as a player, but as a man.”

Did you sense any uneasiness during that time that a guy who’d been around for as long as he had, was it awkward for you or did you sense any uneasiness at that time?

Kaepernick: "Obviously you want to be playing. He had been playing. He had been playing well. Did he want to be on the field? Yes. But, he wasn’t going to let that get in the way of what the team was trying to do.”

Why were you the better choice for this team to go forward and to go with you and to trade Alex away?

Kaepernick: “You’re going to have to ask [head] coach [Jim] Harbaugh that. I’m just trying to do my job.”

Do you believe that you were the better choice?

Kaepernick: “I’m not going to say that publicly because you are all going to try to make it sound like something else. But, I do feel like I’m a good player, yes.”

Almost from the day you came here, you stated your goal was to be the starter. Was that something that you ever addressed with Alex during that time when you were his backup for a year and a half that, ‘I want to get the point where I’m pushing you for your starting job?’

Kaepernick: “It’s not something you talk about, but no one comes into this league and says, ‘Hey, I want to be a backup.’ Not me at least.”


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