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49ers' Fortunes Could've Been Much Different

Alex Smith was having a great season before he was injured

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49ers' Fortunes Could've Been Much Different

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ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20: Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick #7 and quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers warm up before taking on the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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Alex Smith was one of the hottest things going for the first 10 weeks or so of the NFL season. The former No. 1 pick, who was such a disappointment for so long, had so many head coaches and offensive coordinators he probably couldn't keep them straight.

Then came Jim Harbaugh, and suddenly Smith became one of the league's top quarterbacks who was on the verge of a banner season before he suffered a concussion in Week 10, giving way full-time to second-year dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Through his tenure as the 49ers' quarterback, when the 49ers had the second-best record in the NFC, Smith completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 1,737 yards, 13 touchdowns and just five picks.

But then Kaepernick came in and set the world on fire. His 6-4, 230-pound frame makes him one of those guys that looks like a gazelle running the football -- almost Vince Young-like (no offense to Kaepernick).

His inclusion into the 49ers' offense forced Harbaugh to adjust his offense, and it's worked wonders. Since taking over for Smith, Kaepernick finished the regular season with 1,814 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry and was the team's second-leading rusher with 415 and five touchdowns.

Now, he's won two playoff games, including a game against Green Bay in which he set an NFL record with 181 rushing yards -- the most by any quarterback in league history, in any game, ever. He's averaging 11.2 yards per carry in those two playoff wins. He won with his legs against the Packers, and with his arm against the Falcons. He's done it all.

Alex Smith has made it known he wants out of his deal with the 49ers as it's become clear Kaepernick is Harbaugh's guy, bringing back folks preaching the old adage that you should never lose a job due to injury, which is a stupid theory. Look at Tom Brady.

If Smith had never gotten hurt, there's a pretty solid chance the Packers and Aaron Rodgers beat the 49ers because it's not likely Smith was going to outduel Rodgers in a game that would've involved two pretty similar offensive styles.

Kaepernick's arrival changed the 49ers, and changed them for the better, turning them from a really good team to a prohibitive Super Bowl favorite.

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