Jim Harbaugh can afford this Alex Smith/Colin Kaepernick situation to continue

Oh the dilemma of all this!

Oh the dilemma of all this!

As another week of football preparation approaches, we’re stuck again with another week of discussion about the 49ers quarterback situation. Should Alex Smith start again? Or should Colin Kaepernick remain as the starting quarterback? Much like last week, everyone has an opinion.

This will continue throughout the remainder of the season and if the 49ers make the playoffs (which I expect), it will continue.

And I am sure that fans are enjoying this back and forth debate on who should start. After all, it’s in the fan base’s nature. That Joe Montana-Steve Young battle turned into a real controversy that ended with Montana regaining his job, winning two more Super Bowls before injuries caught up to him. Then Young won MVPs and led the team to another Super Bowl.

The debate will rage on as fans will call for Smith’s return after Kaepernick’s sub par performance on Sunday. Others will find reasons to explain that Kaepernick was a victim of bad playcalling. Whether or not you like it or not, this has to be the time for this decision for Harbaugh to stick with Kaepernick to continue.

Because of Smith’s mental mistake in putting himself in harm’s way, that gave Harbaugh the opportunity to see what Kaepernick had to offer.

After all, it appeared that the plan to give Kaepernick a shot at the starting job would begin next season. What’s the harm in giving him that shot now with the opportunity right in from of him? This might actually work out.

Having covered Harbaugh for one season, I understand his ways of thinking. Granted, I don’t think I fully can grasp his mindset, but this is not something new to me at all. But there are a lot of questions that have yet to be answered and if I was still covering him on the beat, here are the questions I’d ask him and what likely his response would be.

Lam: “Coach, what factored into your decision to keep Kaepernick as the starter?

Harbaugh: “He didn’t play poorly as the media suggested and I believe that he has earned another shot. We’re going to go with the hot hand and right now, Colin has the hottest hands on the team.”

Lam: “What about Smith? Didn’t you say he also had a hot hand also? Does that mean Smith’s hands have cooled down?”

Harbaugh: “He’s working through something.”

Lam: “What if Colin has a poor performance this Sunday. Would that make you consider switching back to Alex?”

Harbaugh: “He is a mighty men. He will be able to handle it if it comes to it.”

Lam: “Is Alex capable of coming off the bench and coming in for Colin after having not played in four weeks?”

Harbaugh: “Absolutely. Alex is an elite competitor game manager. He’s our guy. But if he’s not ready, I can always come in myself. I can play quarterback.”

Lam: “Are you serious?”

Harbaugh: “Gobble gobble. Jive turkey.”

Lam: “Seriously, who’s going to be the backup to Smith if Tolzien is inactive again?”

Harbaugh: “NOOOOOBODY!!!!”

OK, maybe that won’t exactly happen, but the more I listen and watching Harbaugh explain himself about this, the more I think I understand what he really is thinking.

Here’s how I see it. The reason why Kaepernick continues to start because Harbaugh wants his prize possession to get the chance to become a star. Remember, Harbaugh advocated for Kaepernick, scouted him and traded up to get him. This is the quarterback Harbaugh wanted all along.

Despite his praise for Smith since his hiring, it was apparent that Harbaugh knew that he would use Smith as long as he could before his prodigy would get his time to shine. Were all the things that Harbaugh said about Smith a lie? I don’t think so. Harbaugh really believed that Smith could be a winner for the team and that’s exactly what Smith did. But it got to the point where Harbaugh might have seen that Smith had reached his highest point and that once Smith peaked, it was time to try something else. Harbaugh might have been tired of safe.

It’s hard to believe that Smith had back to back record-breaking games and that was not enough to merit another start. But because of the injury, the opportunity was too good there to pass up. And with the 49ers at this point still in a good position to claim the #2 playoff spot, the 49ers can afford to try Kaepernick out for this stretch.

But that doesn’t rule out Smith’s potential return to the playing field this year for the 49ers.

In fact, Smith may be the best candidate to go through all this. Given all the turmoil Smith had to endure before Harbaugh was hired, Smith is mentally tough and football smart enough to be ready when called up. That’s why the switch may not have been that tough of a decision for the coaching staff.

But right now, it’s the time for Harbaugh to see if his prodigy can handle the load. There’s no harm in keeping it this way for now because Smith can handle it. He may voice out his displeasure, but Harbaugh knows it’s not going to damage the quarterback.

Despite the vocalization of some teammates about it, if the 49ers keep winning, then there isn’t really much to complain about. This is what Harbaugh views as his trial period to see if Kaepernick can be the starter for next season. And with his fourth straight start, it appears that Harbaugh is going to ride Kaepernick out.

This has to be what Harbaugh is thinking. He got a chance to play his shiny new toy in Kaepernick and after liking what he saw, that’s what he’s going to do until he can’t. He still believes in Smith and knows that he is very lucky to have him on the team also. But this opportunity to see what Kaepernick has was something he can afford to do now. With the team in a good position to hold onto that #2 spot, why not see how far they can go with the second-year quarterback?

Harbaugh has been right on pretty much every major decision the team has had to make since his hiring, so I would give him the benefit of the doubt that this decision might just be the right one. And if Harbaugh is actually wrong in a major decision, he at least has set himself up with a pretty decent backup plan.

And for a laugh, courtesy of Niners Nation:

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