Smith or Kaepernick? It's a tough call

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This has happened before, you'll remember, the Kansas City Chiefs playing against the San Francisco 49ers with a quarterback discarded by the opponent in favor of one now starting for the 49ers.

Then, it was the Chiefs vs. the 49ers and Joe Montana vs. Steve Young at Arrowhead Stadium in September 1994. The matchup between two eventual Hall of Fame quarterbacks seemed at the time to be bigger than life and the Chiefs won 24-17.

On Sunday, it will be the Chiefs vs. the 49ers and Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Neither Smith nor Kaepernick appears at this point of his career to be headed for the Hall of Fame, but otherwise the situation is identical.

The 49ers once chose as their starting quarterback Kaepernick over Smith, just as 20 years earlier they opted for Young over Montana. They traded Smith to the Chiefs, just as they once traded Montana to Kansas City.

History proved the 49ers made the right decision to go with Young over Montana. Montana played two seasons for the Chiefs, quarterbacking the franchise's last two playoff victories and guiding Kansas City to the AFC Championship Game following the 1993 season. Young played seven more seasons and helped the 49ers win Super Bowl XXIX over the San Diego Chargers.

It isn't clear yet whether the 49ers made the right call in keeping Kaepernick over Smith. Either way, it may never be as clear as the Young-Montana verdict is today.

Kaepernick and Smith have different styles but statistically they could be twins. Since the start of the 2012 season, Smith's record as a starting quarterback is 19-8-1 and Kaepernick's is 19-8. Smith has 43 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions, Kaepernick has 37 and 15. Smith has a passer rating of 93.7, identical to that of Kaepernick.

The winning quarterback on Sunday might get bragging rights in this rivalry between the two players but they would only be temporary. A true winner will take a long time to determine.