If Colin Kaepernick’s first NFL start, against the league’s most dangerous defense through the first half of the season, didn’t excite your football senses Monday night, then, well, I think you need to take up a new hobby.
The second-year gunslinger had it all working against the Bears. He fired the ball accurately and with plenty of zip. He showed command in the huddle and in the pocket. He worked through his progressions and showed a great understanding of how to get the football into the hands of his playmakers. He got the offense in and out of the right plays pre-snap.
Ironically, the one area of Kaepernick’s game we didn’t see much of — his ability break the pocket and beat defenses with his legs — was considered his strength coming in.
He didn’t need it Monday night.
Kaepernick completed a sterling 16-of-23 passes for 243 yards and a pair of TDs. More importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over, and his Niners dominated the Bears for 60 minutes.
Where does head coach Jim Harbaugh go from here? His club is 7-2-1, with a 1½-game lead in the division and in the hunt for the NFC’s top seed, and he suddenly has a QB controversy?
I’ll take his problems any day.
The man on the verge of becoming Wally Pipp, Alex Smith, is the NFL’s third-highest rated QB, and he has completed 26 of his last 28 pass attempts.
These are two very different QBs, though.
The strength of Smith’s right arm doesn’t hold a candle to Kaepernick’s. While both guys are highly athletic, you would take the youngster over the veteran in a foot race 10 times out of 10. San Francisco is a far more explosive outfit with Kaepernick at the controls.
Yet, Smith simply doesn’t make many mistakes. He will take a sack before risking an interception. He has a great understanding of Harbaugh’s offense. He has been down, countless times, yet always seems to endure it and come out looking better in the end. In other words, the Niners are a more mature, controlled offense with Smith triggering the action.
Harbaugh hardly threw the type of support behind Smith in his postgame press conference that we have come to expect over the past year. Instead, he said he tends to ride the hot hand, right before acknowledging that he has two red-hot QBs.
Will he keep things close to the vest, forcing opponents to prepare for two very different QBs each week while not naming a starter?
He doesn’t have to worry about Smith’s psyche. After all, the veteran QB is used to uncertainty, between the flirtations with Peyton Manning in the offseason and a parade of different offensive coordinators and head coaches to begin his career.
I think the right decision for Harbaugh is to stick with what got him here. Smith had the Niners on the doorstep of the Super Bowl last season, before Kyle Williams had his struggles in the NFC championship game. A compelling argument can be made that they are the NFC's most complete team this season. Why risk messing with something that is working?
I know Kaepernick played out of his mind Monday night, on the heels of an impressive relief appearance against the Rams. But how long can he sustain it? Even RG3 and Andrew Luck have shown their mortality at times this season.
It just seems to me that there is something backward about Smith, trumpeted for his conservative, mistake-free football the better part of the past two seasons, getting kicked to the curb for that very reason, as soon as a QB whose ceiling is higher might be ready to take the reins.
Kaepernick has the higher ceiling, but Smith has the higher floor. I think the Niners are too good already for Harbaugh to roll the dice on this one.