COMMENTARY | San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh did nothing to clear up what was certain to be a quarterback controversy brewing in San Francisco given the 49ers offensive success against one of the league’s best defenses in the Chicago Bears on Monday night.
He told reporters following the Niners’ 32-7 rout against the Bears that he tends to go with whichever quarterback has the “hot hand.”
This type of talk is usually reserved for running backs in an attempt to keep them fresh from the rigors of getting hit on nearly every play. Quarterbacks, on the on the other hand, are an entirely different animal. It’s widely thought that consistency and regimen reign supreme with signal-callers. But Harbaugh isn’t one for convention, and he’s not going to bow to the protocol of precedent just because it’s how things have almost always been done.
“We really have two quarterbacks with a hot hand,” he said in the post-game press conference on Monday night. “We’ll make that decision [of who is the starter next week] as we go forward.”
It doesn’t appear to be an easy decision, because the offense was firing on all cylinders, and Kaepernick looked like a special player as he picked apart a Bears defense known for making even the best quarterbacks look like rookies. But the 49ers’ young backup was poised and efficient. More than that, he made difficult throws and sound decisions in connecting on 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bears rank No. 1 in the NFL in turnovers with 30, but they didn’t add to that mark on Monday night as Kaepernick led his team in controlling the ball throughout the contest.
Alex Smith, the incumbent starter, has not been bad. In fact, he’s showing consistency and poise becoming of a leader that showed up big in the Niners’ 13-3 run in the regular season a year ago. But fans in San Francisco have seen far too much of ‘bad Alex’ to shove aside a stellar performance from the backup, especially one with the dynamic skill set of Kaepernick.
Even though it’s not fair to Smith, who’s been the epitome of a professional through it all, that’s the way it’s going to be.
This is going to get very interesting as the week wears on, and Harbaugh only fanned the flames with his post-game presser. Whatever happens, Smith will handle it with class as he always has, and we’re going to continue to learn more as time goes on as to exactly what type of player and person the Niners have in Kaepernick.
Stay tuned to this one.
Michael C. Jones is a Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL. He is the Editor of Sports Out West.
You can follow him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets