San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh is planning on riding the "hot hand." But who is that?
There’s an age-old football saying: “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.” That may be the case most of the time, but San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh seems pretty confident in both eighth-year veteran Alex Smith and second-year young gun Colin Kaepernick.
“We really have two quarterbacks with a hot hand,” said Harbaugh, a QB guru who played the position in the NFL from 1987-2000 and also coached Andrew Luck at Stanford.
Before suffering a concussion against the Rams in Week 10, Smith was completing 70 percent of his passes for 1,731 yards, 13 TDs and five INTs for a 104.1 passer rating over his first nine games. Smith’s job seemed pretty safe. He was playing well, had led the 49ers to a 13–3 record and trip to the NFC title game last season, and inked a contract extension worth $16.5 million guaranteed this offseason.
But despite Smith’s recent success and impressive resumé — he was, after all, the No. 1 overall pick (ahead of Aaron Rodgers) in the 2005 draft, had led Utah to an undefeated season under coach Urban Meyer and was a Helix (Calif.) High School teammate of Reggie Bush — he has always been labeled a “game manager” and remains hounded by doubters.
Just when it seemed as if the crowd calling for his exit had quieted down, Smith could only watch as his backup, Kaepernick, shredded the vaunted Chicago Bears defense in a 32–7 win on Monday Night Football.
The 6'4", 230-pound Kaepernick — a local kid from Turlock, Calif. — completed 16-of-23 passes for 243 yards, two TDs and zero INTs, taking only one sack while posting a 133.1 passer rating in his first career start.
Five of his 16 completions went for over 20 yards, and the 25-year-old showed the type of rare athleticism that made him the only quarterback in Division I FBS history to pass for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards during his stat-stuffing career at Nevada.
Kaepernick was anything but a “game manager.” He was the definition of a “playmaker.”
“Everything he did was exemplary,” said Harbaugh, who traded the Nos. 45, 108 and 141 picks to the Denver Broncos in order to move up to No. 36 overall to draft Kaepernick last year.
Now the question isn’t whether or not Kaepernick is the quarterback of the future. The question is whether he has supplanted Smith as the starter.
“Kaepernick is a baller,” said 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. “That boy can play football. I’m not worried about Colin. We’ve got quarterbacks, man.”
But do the 49ers have one too many quarterbacks?