Alex Smith suffered a concussion and was taken out of the game in Week 10 versus the St. Louis Rams, which ended in a 24-24 tie.
Backup QB Colin Kaepernick came into that game in relief duty and played decently, completing 11 of 17 for 117 YDS. He also rushed 8 times for 66 YDS and scored a touchdown. These are pretty good numbers considering that his previous work in this season were plays from a limited package specifically designed for him.
So now let's fast forward to Week 11, against a Chicago Bears team that is without their starting quarterback Jay Cutler. In " the Back-Up Bowl " , which pitted Kaepernick going up against journeyman Jason Campbell, you would have expected for this to be a tightly contested game; after all both teams are defensively sound and have decent running games.
You would think playing conservatively would be the better part of valour. What happened that night was shocking to everyone. Colin Kaepernick played a spectacular game. He played brilliantly and shredded a top 5 Chicago Bears defense en route to a 32 - 7 Niners victory. Kaepernick's stat line was exceptional: 16 of 23, 243 YDS, 2 TDs. Coach Jim Harbaugh comes out for his press conference and when asked about who he will be starting Week 12 at New Orleans, Harbaugh says, "I usually tend to go with the guy that has the hot hand and we have two quarterbacks that have a hot hand. "
On Wednesday Jim Harabugh decided to give practice reps with the first string to Kaepernick, which makes it likely he would be the starter Sunday in "The Big Easy " . Is this the start of a quarterback controversy in San Francisco? Why would you make this move with 6 games left in the season?
The answer to these questions is really simple. No, this is not the start of a QB controversy. You make a move like this to ensure that you will have a viable backup going into the playoffs, just in case you have another injury to Alex Smith. Alex Smith is the starter, period! He led this team to an NFC Championship game and is having another solid season.
If this was an offense that was predicated on throwing the ball 30 or 40 times a game then this would be an issue. This team's offense is based on running the football. The offensive scheme, if anything, protects it's quarterback.
When you have a solid running game and you're leading your division, you can try this experiment, and give a full game or two to your second-year backup who brings an added dimension of mobility to your offense. Besides, when has it hurt to have a viable backup QB?
Am I the only one that remembers how Phil Simms got hurt midway through the 1990 season and Jeff Hostetler was able to come in and lead the New York Giants to a Super Bowl victory. That Giants team was built in a similar way to this San Francisco 49ers team; a solid running game and stout defense. Smith is not out for the season like the aforementioned Simms, but if he did get hurt again, at least Coach Harbaugh would feel confident in putting in his backup because he knows that he threw him into the fire for a period of time during the season and he delivered. Now there is a positive flipside to this situation as well.
If Coach Harbaugh decides to keep Kaepernick in at QB ,and he starts to see major flaws and impediments in his game, then he knows he has a veteran in Alex Smith waiting in the wings. It's a win/win. What's the problem with that?