Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Harbaugh, 49ers' Antics Made Kaepernick Start vs. Saints Inevitable

Wednesday's festivities at the 49ers' practice facility in Santa Clara made it blatantly obvious that Colin Kaepernick would be the starter against the Saints on Sunday, despite the 49ers' intentions.

Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter reported Wednesday night that Jim Harbaugh has told Kaepernick that he will be the starter vs. the Saints. Even worse for the other end of the quarterback controversy -- Alex Smith -- Trotter is
reporting that the decision had nothing to do with Smith's injury status.
Wednesday did hold a lot of clues, though, even before Trotter's report. Alex Smith was once again wearing the black "no contact" jersey at practice, and Harbaugh unofficially declared Smith healthy to play Sunday. Kaepernick also received the first team reps at Wednesday's practice.

It will be the only real practice for the 49ers on a bit of a short week, and that very much played into Kaepernick reportedly getting the start on Sunday. Kaepernick was the only one getting first-team reps, and with Thursday being Thanksgiving, Friday being a travel day for the team and Saturday being a relatively slow preparation day before a game, it was inevitable that Kaepernick's status as the lead dog in Wednesday's practice was the final decision from Harbaugh.

Of course, that is not what Harbaugh wanted the media to think. More importantly, that is not what he wanted the Saints to think.

Harbaugh dodged the question left and right from the media on Wednesday, but he made a big mistake in concealing his hand. If Smith was starting Sunday and Kaepernick's Monday night performance was simply a back-up quarterback filling in for the definitive starter, then Harbaugh would have announced right then and there that Smith was the starter for Sunday vs. the Saints.

That was not the case.

However, Trotter's report did have some flaws in it.  What made the report so surprising was the fact that the decision was reportedly made without Smith's health being an issue.

There is still very much a quarterback controversy in San Francisco, and Kaepernick has not won the job, by any means. Smith has not been cleared to play yet, due to his concussion, although he most likely will pass the contact test prior to Sunday's game.

Smith was done in by the short week for the 49ers, and that certainly does not mean his era in San Francisco is over. Once again, Smith is not fully healthy, and the 49ers have a big game against an elite team.

- UPDATE 11-21-12, 9:37 p.m. -

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