At first this was a fun debate. Should the 49ers stay with the trusted if unspectacular Alex Smith whose career was resurrected by Jim Harbaugh, or roll with the dazzling Colin Kaepernick even though he’s started just one game, and is still essentially a rookie as an NFL quarterback?
That question along with many more generic talk radio hyperbole-producing clichéd queries has prompted disscussion all week, even though there’s really no debate whatsoever on the matter. The fact that the discussion continued isn’t surprising, since it’s our urge to argue about stuff and things that’s kept, say, Tim Tebow relevant. But I digress (also, die Tebow die).
But now on the morning of what we all expected to be Kaepernick’s second career start, we’ve received word that yes, we’re about to watch Kaepernick’s second career start. NFL Network’s Albert Breer reports that he’ll will be under center today for the 49ers when their game against New Orleans kicks off.
So there’s that then. Breer’s report is merely a confirmation of the same report from Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter, who told us late Wednesday night that Kaepernick would start again. Then a conflicting report emerged stating that he’d just be getting the first-team practice reps, and a figurative door would still be open for Smith. That was treated as some kind of scripture and a springboard for greater uncertainty, although I’m not sure why. When a quarterback receives first-team reps during a practice week in Week 12 of an NFL season, he’s most likely, almost definitely starting. The exception to that comes when a decision on the regular starter is rooted in his health, but when Harbaugh made numerous references to hot hands, it was clear that Smith’s health was a lesser factor here, and this was always a performance-based decision.
Keep Kaepernick in your lineup if you had him there, and start him with confidence. Could he disappoint? Sure. Again, he’s still essentially a rookie, and rookie quarterbacks do that. But against an improved but still very weak all-around Saints defense, the ceiling for him today is exceedingly high, with production waiting in the form of both passing and rushing yards.
Despite the also elite fantasy production from the likes of Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford Thursday, Kaepernick could very easily be a top five player at the quarterback position this week.