Colin Kaepernick Was A Better Quarterback Than Alex Smith in 2013

By
Updated: June 22, 2014
NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons

Recently, you may have heard that 49ers QB Colin “I Have Miami Dolphins Snapback Swag” Kaepernick got paid, signing a six-year $126 million contract with $60 million guaranteed. And wouldn’t you know it, a lot of NFL fans are skeptical about Kap living up to the contract.

And obviously, this criticism largely stems from Kansas City, Missouri where Chiefs fans argue QB Alex Smith is worth more than Colin Kaepernick (this due to Smith likely playing for a franchise QB role/contract extension in the 2014 season).

But based on 2013 alone, is that really the case? Let’s check the stats.

There’s no denying the teams Smith and Kaepernick were on (KC, SF) obviously enjoyed a lot of success in 2013. The Chiefs posted 12 wins in an incredible turnaround season and clinched a playoff berth under Andy Reid, while the 49ers went to their 3rd consecutive NFC Title Game under Jim Harbaugh and posted a 12-4 season.

But enough talk about how the 49ers and Chiefs teams did in 2013, let’s check how the QBs themselves compare to each other.

First, let’s check out main stats for both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick in 2013.

Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick in 2013: Attempts, Completions, TD, INT, Completion Percentage, Yards, Passer Rating

Player CMP ATT Yards CMP% TD INT Rate
Alex Smith 308 508 3,313 60.6 23 7 89.1
Colin Kaepernick 243 416 3,197 58.4 21 8 91.6

Welp, debate over! Alex Smith had more completions, attempts, yards, TD, a higher completion percentage, and fewer interceptions than Colin Kaepernick, which automatically makes Smith the superior QB in 2013, right?

Guess again. I left out a few little details, which we will cover gradually in the article. First, let’s check how many yards per attempt both QBs had in 2013, and where that ranked in the season.

Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick: Yards Per Attempt And Ranking Among All QBs

Player CMP ATT YD/ATT Rank
Alex Smith 308 508 6.52 29th
Colin Kaepernick 243 416 7.69 8th

Boom. When you look at it right now, it makes Smith’s performance in 2013 look more pathetic than Kaepernick’s was. Smith was 29th in Yards Per Attempt in 2013. Wanna guess some of the quarterbacks who threw for more yards per attempt in 2013 than Smith? Here’s a sample:

  • Terrelle Pryor (28th, 6.61)
  • Ryan Tannehill (27th, 6.66)
  • Geno Smith (25th, 6.88)
  • Christian Ponder (24th, 6.90)
  • Kellen Clemens (23rd, 6.91)
  • Case Keenum (19th, 6.96)
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick (18th, 7.01)
  • Matt Cassel (16th, 7.11)

All the QBs mentioned above have not/have yet to fully prove themselves in the NFL. How a veteran like Alex Smith, who’s been in the NFL since 2005 no less, had lower YPA than all these quarterbacks in 2013 is a mystery.

Next, let’s check out the stats put up by both quarterbacks a little more closely. While the totals (Smith 23, Kaepernick 21) suggest that Smith was better at throwing touchdowns than Kaepernick, there’s just one problem: We have to check the individual games themselves.

To start off, let’s take a look at where both QBs were halfway through the 2013 season.

Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick: 2013 Season (First 8 games)

Player CMP ATT YDS CMP% TD INT Rate
Alex Smith 169 286 1,795 59.1 9 4 82
Colin Kaepernick 113 198 1,584 57.1 9 5 88.5

Nothing too spectacular from both quarterbacks, but most of the numbers are a lot closer than people would like to admit, especially considering both QBs threw the same amount of touchdowns.

Kaepernick had the higher passer rating despite throwing one more pick, putting up a lower completion percentage, and less yards than Alex Smith halfway through the season. You’re probably wondering why that is.

Guess what, we’re missing one little tiny detail, and that is: “Amount Of Games Where The Quarterback Threw 0 Touchdowns.” This time, we’re going to include all of the 2013 regular season in this equation, as well as Win-Loss record in these 0 TD games to study the impact both quarterbacks had on their teams in 2013.

Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick: 0 Touchdown Games and Win-Loss Record

Player 0 TD Games W-L Record
Alex Smith 6 5-1
Colin Kaepernick 4 2-2

You still alive? Good. And yes, Smith had 6 games in which he threw ZERO touchdowns in 2013. That’s awful.

So what does this all mean? Well, when Alex Smith threw 0 TD in his 6 games, it had less of an impact on the final score than when Kaepernick threw 0 TD. This means when Kaepernick didn’t step up to the challenge, the 49ers had a bigger chance of losing the game than the Chiefs when Alex Smith didn’t step up.

But we’re still missing one teensy tiny little detail: who were the teams the quarterbacks threw 0 TD against?

Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick: Teams Both Quarterbacks Threw 0 TD Against

Player Teams Faced Playoff Teams Combined Record
Alex Smith 6 2 40-56
Colin Kaepernick 4 3 43-21

 

Game over. Out of the 6 teams Alex Smith threw 0 TD against (Philadelphia, Tennessee, Oakland, Houston, Buffalo, Indianapolis), only 2 of them were playoff teams. In comparison, Kaepernick faced 4 teams (Seattle, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Carolina), and 3 of them were playoff teams. That just makes Alex Smith’s performance in those games all the more embarrassing.

Finally, we compare the lowest point of both quarterbacks in those 0 TD game stretches (obviously since throwing 0 TD in a game is a very low standard for a QB).

In Kaepernick’s lowest stretch, he had 2 consecutive games of 0 TD thrown (week 2 and week 3). Before that, he threw 3 TD in week 1. Afterwards, he threw 5 TD in the next 3 games.

As for Alex Smith, his worst stretch was between Week 5 and Week 9. In those 5 games, Alex Smith only threw 2 TD and had 4 games with 0 TD. This is significantly worse than the lowest point of Kaepernick’s season. Making matters worse, the five 0 TD games the Chiefs won came in the middle of their 9-0 start to the 2013 season.

Overall, it’s no contest for me. I stand by my statement and choose Colin Kaepernick as the better QB in 2013 than Alex Smith. There’s even the possibility that Kaepernick is already a better QB than Alex Smith ever was (postseason excluded, though Kaepernick also appears to be catching up).

Of course, just because Kaepernick was the better QB in 2013 than Alex Smith does not mean Kaepernick will be more successful in 2014, that Kaepernick is an elite quarterback, or that Alex Smith won’t have a great 2014 season.

But as of right now, the 49ers quarterback wins this round over the guy they sent to the Chiefs.

(Stats via pro-football-reference.com and espn.com)

 

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3 Comments

  1. Jball

    June 23, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Alex didn’t need touchdowns to win while playing with a lead, & Charles running for 3 a game. Duh

    • Jball

      June 23, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Why would he press

  2. ftgambit

    June 25, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    John this must be the most ignorant comparative analysis of all time, well done sir. Kaepernick has had 3yrs to master Harbaughs system including offseason, Smith had less than a year learning a new offense with new coaches and new players around him minus the chemistry to start

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