Smith vs Kaepernick – A Familiar 49ers Controversy


Alex Smith versus Colin Kaepernick – A polarizing topic that makes its way out the dark grumblings of football fans across the state of Utah and the country.

Among today’s schedule of NFL games, the San Francisco 49ers play host to the Kansas City Chiefs. This could possibly be the game of the week, especially because of the aforementioned matchup.

The Smith/Kaepernick controversy isn’t the first of its kind to happen with the 49ers. In fact, what some have considered to be the greatest quarterback controversy of all time involved the 49ers, the Chiefs, and two legends.

Joe Montana was, no doubt, already on his way to the NFL’s Hall of Fame. He had won four Super Bowls with the 49ers, including one magnificent finish. His nickname, Joe Cool, said it all. He was poised, calm, and collective in the. He wasn’t too athletic, didn’t rely much on his running skills to get around. He simply played it smart, found the seams, and threaded the needle with accuracy. He was a true game manager.

Steve Young, on the other hand, was a young intense competitor. Going back to his days at BYU, nothing would bring him down. He would just face fear full in the face. He played the smash-mouth game, using his athleticism and size, he would just as soon run over a linebacker, take the hit, and get back up, than run and hide. He played with a physical toughness, using his feet to make plays and get down field.


In 1990, Joe suffered an elbow injury in the NFC Championship Game. He ultimately missed the next two seasons. Young performed well in his absence. The controversy came, when Montana had recovered from the injury. The aging great was ready to come back. He played the second half of the final game of the season against the Detroit Lions. He ended up winning the game for them. However, he never saw another snap as a 49er. Young led them on through the playoffs and the following season, Joe requested a trade, to none other than the Chiefs.

The controversy brought a divide to a nation of fans. Many, fans of the soon to be Hall of Famer, struggled with the thought that he was no longer their beloved quarterback. The great Joe Cool, was being replaced. What’s more, Young now took over in the dark shadow of the great, where fans and media would constantly compare. The proverbial monkey square on his shoulders.

On September 11, 1994, Steve Young and Joe Montana had the opportunity to square off. The first time the two would do so, since the trade had taken place. The Chiefs defeated the 49ers 24-17 that day. However, the 49ers finished the season in dominating fashion and won their 5th Super Bowl, solidifying Young as one of the greats, and ridding himself of the shadow under which he had played.

Sound familiar?

Aside from the fact that we’re talking about two legends and two not-so-legends, the situation is eerily similar.

Today, the two teams matchup featuring two quarterbacks that have been in the middle of a similar controversy. In the end, it really shouldn’t matter. They are both where they should be, leading their respective teams, successfully. The controversy and competition continues amongst fans. It may for some time. But, it isn’t the first, and likely won’t be the last.

What will happen in the matchup today? That has yet to be decided. However, the outcome will likely fuel even more the debate: Who is better, Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick?

The debate may not be settled, until one is crowned Super Bowl King. And one may continue to live in the shadow of the other. Until then, the debate roles on.


About the author

Alan "Jedi" Zaugg

Alan “Jedi” Zaugg is managing editor of TornBySports and host of the Jedi & Jerms podcast. He’s an avid NBA fan and basketball junkie and passionate sports enthusiast. He enjoys writing and illustrating. He hosts a Star Wars podcast and writes for The Cantina Cast in addition to a myriad of other projects. He also writes fantasy and science fiction in his spare time. You can follow him on Twitter: @jedizaugg