Nov 20, 2012, 11:37 AM EDT
When Jim Harbaugh was in high school (Palo Alto High, Calif. … home of Jeremy Lin and James Franco), he was infamous for locking his keys in his car. So much so that his football teammates made a jimmy device in metal shop to help him out. Did Harbaugh lock himself into a similar tough situation on Monday following the 49ers’ 32-7 win over the Bears?
Harbaugh has learned a thing or two since high school, methinks. There’s a quarterback controversy in San Francisco in the sense that Harbaugh wants you to believe there is. Reality on the field is something very different.
Colin Kaepernick’s mighty effort against Chicago (16 of 23, 243 yards, two touchdowns) has created a vortex of controversy, for sure. His effort appeared so effortless against a 7-1 team that many are left to wonder how he can’t be considered the starter from here on out.
And that’s just what Harbaugh wants you to think. Because other than designing game plans and thinking about football, the thing that he enjoys most in life is leaving the press, and his opponents, hanging in the breeze.
Harbaugh appeared to step through the looking glass with his post-game comments on Monday, referring to having two quarterbacks “with a hot hand” (see video below). But make no mistake: Alex Smith, when healthy, is the 49ers’ starter. That’s in stone, no matter how elaborately Harbaugh tries to juke you. What Kaepernick’s performance does is give the coach more options. He can bring him in more often, and in different situations, now that he’s been battle tested. Heck, he can even play both quarterbacks at the same time (don’t put it past him). This just makes the 49ers that much more versatile.
But a quarterback controversy? That’s for teams where the head coach isn’t really in charge. There is no QB controversy in Harbaugh’s mind, or that of OC Greg Roman, and that’s all that counts here. Wailing and gnashing of teeth among writers and fans matters not to these guys … in fact, they likely enjoy it. And if such talk happens to motivate Smith or Kaepernick or both, all the better. And Harbaugh also likely relishes the concept of the Saints not knowing who the heck will be playing QB against them on Sunday.
Let’s not make too much of the 49ers’ win on Monday. A solid step, surely … but remember that SF is still a team that lost decisively to the Vikings and Giants, and tied the Rams.
Kaepernick is the future of the team, for sure — Harbaugh wouldn’t have traded up for him in the draft if he didn’t think so. But Smith is the here-and-now, as long as he’s able to think clearly without the audible grinding of broken gears in his noggin. What Harbaugh was saying on Monday was, ‘Let’s see if I can make the press do a little dance.’ And on a night when everything was going his way, that worked, too.
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