Colin Kaepernick wasn’t the 49ers’ starting quarterback on opening day, but now he’s engineered his team to the biggest stage in professional sports.
Kaepernick was named the team’s starter after incumbent Alex Smith was concussed halfway through the season. In his first career start, the second-year signal-caller out of Nevada rejuvenated the Niners’ offense, and the former second-round selection played well enough to earn the starting job.
And it’s a story that’s all too familiar.
Former Giants great Phil Simms was in a similar situation in 1990, four years removed from earning the MVP award when he lifted his team past Denver in Super Bowl XXI.
Simms led the Giants to an 11-2 mark that year, but broke his foot in mid-December, prematurely ending his season.
In his place, backup Jeff Hostetler drew the start, helping New York to win five straight to end the regular season then beat Buffalo, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV.
The comparisons are endless, especially when you consider that both Kaepernick and Hostetler are two of the three quarterbacks to ever start a Super Bowl with fewer than 10 career starts.
Yet Simms can sympathize with Smith, who will watch from the sidelines and hopes to find a new team in the coming months.
“I think it would be much tougher what (Smith is) going through than what I did. The fact that I was hurt, I realized there was nothing I could do. I don’t know if that softens the blow or not. I think it probably does. I saw Alex Smith being interviewed this morning. I did feel for him. I will talk about him during the game, hopefully. He’s handled it great. I don’t know this for a fact, but I think if he doesn’t get hurt he wouldn’t have been unseated as the quarterback. I kind of thought maybe he would have been – I always had that vibe – but I think maybe my vibe was wrong, from what I understand.”
Smith may be donning a new jersey next season, but it appears Kaepernick is the new face of the franchise in San Francisco.
Since Week 10, Kaepernick has helped the Niners over the likes of New England, Green Bay and Atlanta, and will have an opportunity to turn his 10th career start into a Super Bowl triumph.
Thrust into a similar situation more than two decades ago, Hostetler doesn’t believe your resume dictates success. Should Kaepernick continue to play at the level he has, the former Giants quarterback is confident he too can hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
“Experience is great to have. But you can’t get experience unless you’re on the field. He’s taken advantage of a situation that is really out of his control, which was similar to mine. Mine was injury, his is the coach making a decision because of an injury. You have to produce and that’s what he’s doing.
“The bottom line is I had an opportunity with very little experience and was thrust into a situation where most of the time experience is what gets you through it. In my case, I didn’t have the experience, but I had the ability to do it. That’s how Kaepernick is. He didn’t have the experience, but just because he didn’t have the experience it doesn’t mean he can’t get the job done.”
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