Always expect the unexpected with the San Francisco 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh. That’s what every 49ers fan should know by this point.
Harbaugh sold the fact that Alex Smith was starting Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears ALL WEEK prior to the game. There was no implication made that back-up Colin Kaepernick would actually be starting until San Francisco announced that the morning of the game.
That decision was only made after Smith, according to Harbaugh in a team transcript, APPEARED to still have some concussion symptoms on Sunday, according to Harbaugh.
But according to Monday’s post-game transcript, Harbaugh said Kaepernick got all the reps in practice on Saturday and Sunday. Is there a missing link somewhere in here? The decision to start Kaepernick was made Sunday but he gets full reps Saturday and partial reps earlier in the week. So, just being skeptical here, did Smith’s symptoms get worse from earlier in the week if he didn’t get any reps over the weekend?
To make it better, reports came out on Wednesday that Harbaugh told Smith that Kaepernick would be starting this Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, and not because of Smith’s injury. A few hours after that report, another came along saying that Smith had been told Kaepernick is getting first team reps, but the starting job is still open. In his Wednesday press conference, Harbaugh said he may switch quarterbacks week-to-week and maybe might switch them in-game.
So what if Harbaugh starts Kaepernick for the very first play of the game and then switches to Smith for the rest of the game? Harbaugh has already used Kaepernick for certain plays in a game at quarterback, then switched back to Smith almost immediately.
So, to break it to everybody, don’t look into any reports about who’s starting where and when and for how long and for which snaps. For all we know, Harbaugh could be telling people to feed rumors out. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
Discussing Monday night’s game, Kaepernick played well against a very, very tough Bears defense. His throws were to the point and accurate. He rarely used his legs to make a play because he didn’t need to. That showed Kaepernick’s great pocket presence.
As for who should start Sunday’s game against the Saints, Smith shouldn’t lose his job just because of his concussion, but many people feel he should never take another snap for the 49ers again. Smith’s leash should be made very, very short, but Kaepernick shouldn’t be thrown over him on the depth chart because of one game. It’s clear to Smith if he doesn’t perform well, there’s a more than adequate replacement waiting in the wings.
Should Smith be benched yet? No. He’s finally in a position where he must play the best football of his life to keep his job. There hasn’t been one time in his career where he has actually had to worry about that. Let’s see how he performs when he’s in that position.
As for who will start and who won’t, don’t make any bets. It could come down to a flip of a coin for Harbaugh. He’d get a kick out of the stories written about that.
Reach Peter Fournier at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/p_fournier.