OK, OK, so I was clearly wrong about 49ers second-year QB Colin Kaepernick being unable to play up to the level needed to win an NFL playoff game. The guy scorched the Green Bay Packers, personally and in every statistical category yesterday as he led and carried the Niners to a blow-out 45-31 game that was actually not as close as the final score indicates.
Ever since mid-season when Coach Jim Harbaugh benched Alex Smith — who at the time was in the top three quarterbacks in the league — in favor of the less-seasoned second-year horse, I’ve been bitchy. I had written some time earlier that I saw Kaepernick as a true Top 5 QB in another year or two but I was not supportive of Harbaugh’s move because:
- I don’t think a guy should lose a job he’s doing very well because he gets injured. I don’t like the message that sends to players: play hurt or be benched.
- After seven seasons of shoving Smith around a totally unsettled coaching situation, I thought he deserved a chance to show what he could do in a stable environment.
For what it’s worth, I still feel that way. At the very least, Harbaugh will wake up as the 2013 season begins and find he has some players who are reluctant to put out 100% for a coach who shows no loyalty to a solid veteran. He made the switch to Kaepernick for one reason: he could.
But, with all that said, Kaepernick turned in a magnificent job on Saturday night. No doubt Smith could not have picked apart the Packers with anything resembling the alacrity and brilliance Kaepernick showed. I suspect the Niners have a better than 50-50 chance of playing the the Super Bowl this year.
Clearly, Kaep will be the QB for the next few years for the Niners. I hope and trust Smith will land someplace where he’ll be appreciated and supported so he can finish what should be an illustrious career in the NFL despite maltreatment by the Niners.
But I’m slightly less a fan of the red and gold these days because of the shabby way they treated a guy who worked his gut out for them and was near the pinnacle of success when he was summarily sidelined by a coach with an ego the size of the new Niners stadium.