Colin Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to a thrilling, 28-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game, helping validate 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh's decision to bench Alex Smith in favor of Kaepernick -- even though Smith was enjoying perhaps the best year of his career.
Still, Smith isn't bitter. In fact, he told Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver that he "couldn't be happier."
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Smith completed a staggering 70.2% of his passes in 2012, throwing for 1,737 yards and averaging a career-high 7.37 yards per pass attempt. Smith threw 13 touchdown passes in 10 games -- just five shy of his career-high set in 2009.
Even though Smith played at a high level, and the highest level of his career, Harbaugh made a controversial decision to bench Smith in favor of Kaepernick -- and the move clearly worked.
Kaepernick wasn't the facilitator of San Francisco's offense in the NFC Championship, though he did play well, completing 16 of 21 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. Kaepernick wasn't intercepted, and added 21 yards on the ground.
There's little doubting the spark Kaepernick provided to San Francisco's offense down the stretch in the regular season, and in the playoffs.
In the regular season, Kaepernick completed 62.4% of his passes, averaging 8.32 yards per attempt, while throwing 10 touchdown passes. Kaepernick, of course, is a dual threat, and added 415 rushing yards, averaging 6.6 yards per rush, and scored five touchdowns on the ground.
Kaepernick hasn't slowed down any in the playoffs, either. In San Francisco's 45-31 shootout victory against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional round, Kaepernick threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, while shredding Green Bay's defense with his legs, racking up 181 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Needless to say, Kaepernick's play down the stretch and in the playoffs has vindicated Harbaugh's decision to bench Smith.
It would be very easy for Smith to be bitter, but instead, he chose to be cordial, and legitimately seems happy and excited for he and his teammates.
Smith knows he almost certainly won't be back with the 49ers in 2013, and will likely land a starting gig somewhere else in the NFL. Consequently, Smith also knows that Super Bowl XLVII will be his last game with the 49ers -- and he's perfectly okay with that, even if he's not the starting quarterback.