Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/14/12

ST. LOUIS - JANUARY 3: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers listens on the sidelines during the game against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on January 3, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri. The 49ers beat the Rams 28-6. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Quarterback controversies can often be a death sentence for a potential playoff team. Just take a quick glance at the current state of the Jets for a prime example. But what the 49ers have out in San Francisco is exactly what any contender dreams of. Coming into this season, Alex Smith was viewed as a quarterback finally on the rise. He led — and I use that term lightly, because the defense was unreal — the 49ers to within minutes of their first Super Bowl berth in more than 15 years. He then followed that up this season by leading the NFL with a 70 percent completion percentage through nine games. But even that couldn’t sustain the former No. 1 overall pick’s starting job. Once Smith went down with a concussion in Week 11′s dreadful tie with the Rams, Jim Harbaugh almost immediately handed the keys over to Colin Kaepernick and told him to run wild — maybe even literally. Since the switch, Kaepernick has actually improved the 49ers’ offensive attack. In his four games as starter, Kaepernick has the 49ers’ passing game gaining better than 10 more yards per game and the offense as a whole scoring at least two more points per. It’s no surprise that San Francisco is 3-1 with Kaepernick behind center, either, not that Smith’s 6-2-1 record was anything to turn your nose at. But Kaepernick’s mobility adds just another element to an already dangerous 49ers offense. While Smith’s 70 percent leads the NFL in completion percentage, Kaepernick has been very accurate in his own right, completing 67 percent of his passes. Similarly, Smith threw 15 touchdowns to just five interceptions on the season before his injury, and Kaepernick has now thrown three touchdowns and just one interception. The only real difference comes on the ground, where Kaepernick has rushed for 351 yards and five scores while Smith has gained just 134 yards running the football and has yet to find the end zone. While the numbers may point in Kaepernick’s favor for the time being, he’s working with a very small sample size. Smith obviously was very effective in his own right, and is clearly the far more experienced quarterback, both in regular and postseason games. So, with the 49ers headed for Gillette Stadium and a Sunday night showdown on the horizon, who would you rather see taking snaps against the Patriots on Sunday? Cast your vote and let your voice be heard in the box below. Take Our Poll Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.
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