Jim Harbaugh did nothing to prevent a quarterback controversy in San Francisco after Colin Kaepernick’s performance last night. Kaepernick torched a Bears defense which had limited all passers for the year to under 6.4 yards per attempt, 19 interceptions, and still has the best passer rating against in the league.
After the game, Jim Harbaugh didn’t throw any water on the Colin Kaepernick fire: “I usually tend to go with the guy who’s got the hot hand, and we’ve got two quarterbacks that have got a hot hand.” When asked about the supposed axiom that you don’t lose your job to injury, Harbaugh responded, “We’ll make that determination as we go. But, there’s no rule.”
At a time when we deride coaches for double speak, and when Harbaugh himself claimed that he did not try to recruit Peyton Manning to replace Alex Smith a few months ago, this is a refreshing approach.
As Harbaugh noted, Alex Smith was playing well right before the injury. Would a guy that has completed 70% of his passes and is averaging 8.0 yards per attempt really get replaced as the starter? Ordinarily, the answer would be no. Kaepernick, though, gave a performance that even belied the numbers.
We’ve seen Alex Smith play the game manager role, and the 49ers offense is one that relies on its formations and running game to create the passing opportunities. Against weak opponents, Smith has thrived. His only game with more than 240 yards passing came against the Buffalo Bills. When he had to play in a shootout against the Saints’ high powered offense and suspect defense, Smith answered.
Kaepernick, though, just made the Bears defense look like the Bills or Saints. This wasn’t a see how the game goes and respond situation. The game plan with a backup quarterback was more aggressive than we’ve seen them call with Smith as the starter. They opened the game with the type of throw you don’t let the quarterback throw if you don’t trust him. The throw he made to Kyle Williams for 53 yards was top notch.
This system is going to produce numbers, but if the coaching staff feels more comfortable with one quarterback, and implementing a more expansive game plan, well, there is no rule. The guess here? Kaepernick starts this week, and Smith is given one more week to recover. If he comes back to earth with a much better matchup, then the choice becomes simpler. If he lights up the Saints, well, things would become very interesting.
[photo via US Presswire]