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Kaepernick vindicates Jim Harbaugh

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

When 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh decided to bench quarterback Alex Smith after he recovered from a concussion and to elevate Colin Kaepernick to the starting job, many proclaimed that anything less than a Super Bowl berth would be evidence that Harbaugh made the wrong decision.

Under that standard, Harbaugh knocked it out of the park.

It was a decision made both for the present and the future.  Indeed, the future of the position was secured when Harbaugh and G.M. Trent Baalke made Kaepernick a second-round pick during the lockout, before Harbaugh was even able to meet with his veteran players.

The fact that Harbaugh is such a good coach delayed Kaepernick’s debut, because Harbaugh lifted Smith to new heights as a quarterback.  The first pick in the 2005 draft, who amazingly was still with the team seven seasons later, played better than ever, leading the 49ers to a 13-3 record, a thrilling win over the Saints, and very nearly to the Super Bowl.

Harbaugh flipped the switch knowing that he would be exposed to short-term criticism if the 49ers didn’t at least match what they had done a year ago.  But Harbaugh never wavered.

“After the [Bears] game, Jim and I sat down [in his office] and I asked him, ‘What’s your gut?‘” owner Jed York told Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports after Sunday’s win.  “He said, ‘Kaep. You OK [with that]?’  I said, ‘It’s your team.  You’ve got to go after it.  Whatever you think works.  I can defend either decision, and I understand either decision.’

“I trust Jim.  You either trust your coach or you don’t.  Obviously time will tell.  I think it proved to be a good move.  You see the evidence.  He’s playing well.  Jim made a gutsy, gutsy call.  And I don’t know that there’s any other coach in the league that would have made that call.”

There’s at least one — John Harbaugh would have done it.

Others may have, too.  Because the head coach and his staff have the unique perspective of knowing how a quarterback performs in practice, how he works in the meeting room, how much time he spends watching film, and whether he’s just spinning his wheels or whether he’s learning and growing.  That’s the biggest point I made when defending the move:  Jim Harbaugh knows his guys, and he realizes which quarterback is more likely to succeed, now and in the future.

Of course, Harbaugh didn’t feel so strongly about Kaepernick in March to refrain from “evaluating” Peyton Manning.  And every 49ers fan should now be happy that the “evaluation” didn’t become an acquisition.

Kaepernick is only 25, more than a decade younger than Manning.  And Kaepernick is four months younger than Joe Montana was when he led the team to the first of four Super Bowl wins.

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48 Responses to “Kaepernick vindicates Jim Harbaugh”
  1. fuglyflorio says: Jan 21, 2013 10:01 AM

    He should commemorate it with a tattoo … if he only had the room.

  2. redandgoldhitman52 says: Jan 21, 2013 10:11 AM

    haters love to hate cuz they envy kaep’s success. i love it. thanks everyone

  3. damadgreek says: Jan 21, 2013 10:17 AM

    The kid can play.

  4. beedubyatoo says: Jan 21, 2013 10:18 AM

    If Harbaugh’s such a genius, why wasn’t Kaepernick starting from the 1st game in Green Bay? Maybe the 49′ers could have even beaten Minnesota. Or the Rams in their first game.

  5. vicnocal says: Jan 21, 2013 10:18 AM

    Kaepernick has shown amazing poise in running the offense even in hostile territory like the Georgia Dome yesterday.
    The Falcons basically contained his running yesterday, but all that meant was that he beat them with his arm instead – making good reads and great on the money throws.

  6. hadjiali says: Jan 21, 2013 10:18 AM

    Belichick made a similar move when Bledsoe was hurt.
    Two outstanding coaches. Not sure if they’d win any congeniality contests.

  7. questforthesixthnotthelast2013 says: Jan 21, 2013 10:19 AM

    For the tat idea, he could find room for sure, that kappy guy gets me all up in frustrated sweats, he throws with confidence and that boils down from ownership to waterboy. The yorks are great people, so are the Harbaughs, i read some comments and obviously they are from the same media people that question the coaching and ownership about their bussiness, they are there to succeed and propel their franchise.
    Stick to the facts, not just what somebody says, NBC has had a few stories out there that just wernt factual. Please dont mislead the public in the name of the dollar.

    Niners own this!! Harbaugh is a genius at deception if you havent seen, the man is sitting next to great men, listening and gathering in all the info, sorts it sees it and can be very sharp with it.
    I like A. Smith but he had his time, just couldnt pull the trigger and firestart the team like Kap.. stay Alex please!! The team still needs you, and you cant beat us wherever you go! For a faithful niner, i hope you do.

  8. gochargersgo says: Jan 21, 2013 10:21 AM

    All the pressure in the world on his shoulders and he has stepped up. Lots of respect.

  9. gochargersgo says: Jan 21, 2013 10:22 AM

    I also like how the 49ers take the high road after victoriy unlike the ravens and so many other teams in the NFL these days.

  10. nananatman says: Jan 21, 2013 10:27 AM

    Never gonna win that bowl, shouldn’t have benched Smith like that.

  11. taintedlombardis says: Jan 21, 2013 10:29 AM

    So this decision is vindicated because the 9ers defense? This is what passes for football analysis? Kid played like Alex Smith yesterday. Very game manageresque. Not impressed.

  12. 9ersruledude says: Jan 21, 2013 10:30 AM

    I as a 49er fan was very skeptical of the move. I thought he was crazy to make a quarterback change in the middle of the season. Good for him to have testicles to do it. In hindsight, it was a very good move. If they win the Super Bowl, it will be a genius move. Go Niners!!!

  13. taintedlombardis says: Jan 21, 2013 10:36 AM

    9ers would have went to the Super Bowl with Alex Smith if not for Kyle Williams.

  14. shallweride says: Jan 21, 2013 10:41 AM

    If Harbaugh’s such a genius, why wasn’t Kaepernick starting from the 1st game in Green Bay? Maybe the 49′ers could have even beaten Minnesota. Or the Rams in their first game.

    There in the super bowl bud. Anything else?

  15. mgdsquiggy17 says: Jan 21, 2013 10:52 AM

    I love how Florio always has to throw in some kind of little snarky comment into each article. Like mentioning the Manning thing. It really gets your panties in a bunch that JH won’t give them media every single bit of information they can doesn’t it?

  16. salventuri says: Jan 21, 2013 10:54 AM

    I wish one of the Harbaugh’s were coaching the Giants.

  17. omegaichiban says: Jan 21, 2013 10:55 AM

    As tainted said above…Williams cost them that game last year. But kudos to coach for saying this is the man I want to lead our team and making the move

  18. cometkazie says: Jan 21, 2013 10:55 AM

    Compare how the 49ers operate with how the Jests operated.

    One is dysfunctional from the owner down.

    I was going to mention the similar decision going with Brady over Bledsoe, but someone already did.

  19. finsphan says: Jan 21, 2013 11:08 AM

    congrats kap, you were able to do something Alex Smith wasn’t able to do….keep the special teams from blowing 2 fumbles and costing yourself a trip to the sb. won the game by playing the game exactly how smith played it.

  20. dwarftosser says: Jan 21, 2013 11:10 AM

    If you watched the first game he started against Chicago in November this year, it was clear Alex Smith wasn’t getting his job back. Kaepernick just appears more in command, more poised in the pocket.. and more confident. And his throws look better and more accurate. Watching that kid play his first entire game made it very clear that he was on a higher level than Alex Smith. I think this kid is going to be good for awhile… and he’s got the arm to give his career longevity when his legs start to break down.

  21. dirtysouthironmen says: Jan 21, 2013 11:12 AM

    So a team that many projected to reach the SB makes it there but it is the “genius” move by the coach to switch QBs that gets the credit. I would say if Smith were still at the helm the 49ers will still be where they are at now.

  22. pongonfl says: Jan 21, 2013 11:15 AM

    Smith doesn’t win that game, he would never have switched to Crabtree like Kap switched to Davis.
    He would never have taken that team on his back and come from 3 scores back.
    If Smith is smart, he stays at SF as a back up.

  23. sisqsage says: Jan 21, 2013 11:24 AM

    Anyone who still thinks Alex should still be the guy is self delusional.
    Kaep showed he is the real deal from about five minutes into that Bears game, and embarrassed a great defense on national TV.

    He makes everybody else around him better. Look at how Crabtree has reached a new level. The great ones always lift up the rest of the team.

    Alex would get killed by a linebacker or end if he tried to run the pistol. Kaep has the skills to avoid those hits. Pick your poison. Take Kaep’s running lanes away. Fine. We will just give it to Frank and he walks into the end zone twice.

    Harbaugh knows QBs and made these two NFL-ready in a very short period of time.

    With Harbaugh it is just getting started and it is going to be awesome.

  24. cfballfan1 says: Jan 21, 2013 11:29 AM

    Gutsy move, for sure – especially for a former QB with marginal skills who constantly had to fight off more talented competition.

    After the SB the Niners better do right by Smith and let him pursue a starting gig somewhere else. Who knows – he might be as successful as Brees post – dumped by the Chargefs if he lands in the right system.

  25. 49ersandshivabowl says: Jan 21, 2013 11:45 AM

    So do you guys just censor any and all comments with no standards whatsoever?? Chumps.

  26. kingcrusher says: Jan 21, 2013 11:46 AM

    I’ve got nothing against Kap, he’s fun to watch. But seriously folks, look at the stats, him and Smith were almost identical. They are just pieces in a machine (A finely tunes machine that is called the 49ers).
    I was upset at the coach for the way he handled the Smith situation. You don’t bench the 3rd highest rated QB and 1st in accuracy, who is leading your team to another great season simply because you want to make a chance. Luckily for the coach, it panned out. If it hadn’t everyone would be saying what an idiot he was. But hindsight is always 20/20 and people will jump on the “I knew it was right!” after the fact.
    Bottom line here is that the 9′ers would probably be exactly where they are now with either QB, only the way it was done, Jimmy boy lost all his trust with his starters. There is NO WAY Smith will hang round for next season, it just will not happen. In fact, I doubt Alex and Jim will be having lunch any time soon after the season’s over.
    I love my 9′ers and we will hopefully be getting another victory, but I truly despise the coach for the way he handled the whole situation.
    Go Niners!!!!!

  27. cletusvandam says: Jan 21, 2013 11:56 AM

    As Stanley Hudson said “An upturned broom with a bucket for a head” would be a better QB than Alex Smith so I don’t really think Harbaugh had that tough of a choice.

  28. iowahbr says: Jan 21, 2013 11:58 AM

    The most amazing thing is how far that the 49ers have come in 2 years under Harbaugh. They rode Singletary out of town on a rail and look where they are now. As a Bears fan I only hope that the Bear’s coaching change at the top will produce half of those results in 5 years.

  29. questforthesixthnotthelast2013 says: Jan 21, 2013 12:01 PM

    Smith is a decent starter, wouldnt say fantastic but .. he knows he has great coaching there, why not stay and help repeat? Who else that has an open spot for QB is gonna be in a position to get in the playoffs? Jaguars? Raiders? Cardinals??? Nobody, thats the chant they sing, nobody gots it better than the niners.

  30. realfootballfan says: Jan 21, 2013 12:31 PM

    One other coach would have made that call, Belichick. He essentially did the same thing with Brady and Bledsoe, although admittedly with more precedent to continue with Brady at the time because he’d been in the lineup winning games longer.

    Kaepernick is the new prototype and Harbaugh’s switch to him in season was smart on another level. He was able to spring him on the rest of the league before defensive coordinators even got close to getting enough film on his tendencies.

    RG III played a whole season and people still haven’t caught up with him. Defensive coordinators have even less to go on to figure out Kaepernic since he’s played even less time. Genius move.

    By the way, where are the Alex Smith fan club members now? No way they win that game yesterday with Captain Game manager running the show.

  31. shlort says: Jan 21, 2013 12:49 PM

    I still laugh when I read these comments about “New era at the QB position” and the like. People act like it has never been tried before. It has, and more than once. It has never worked out in almost every instance.

    Now days we are seeing it on a larger scale. Why? Because there happen to be 3 or 4 guys on good teams that can do something with it. These QBs wont be durable enough to sit here 10 years from now and say “He is still doing it!”. We wont be sitting around 5 years from now talkng about these great mobile Quarterbacks. What will happen though, is any coach trying to build his future on it will be wishing they had a guy that could pass. That is the bottom line in the NFL. Cant throw it? Oh well, better luck next time.

    The reality is this. Without the mobility guys like Kaepernick, Griffin and whoever else fits the mold, wont be as effective in the passing game. Being mobile opens up the short passes and some medium stuff when players move on the QB because he looks like he might run. Look how wide open recievers are in these systems. These QBs better throw it close enough for the guy to cach it. What will happen when the QB has to stay in the pocket and throw into coverage? He wont look so hot then.

    We only need to look back at history to see how the read option system eventually pans out. I do like how everyone who likes it is hoping for great things from it. Facts are that it will have its splash and be gone.

  32. goldrush4949 says: Jan 21, 2013 1:27 PM

    Surprised Kaepernick improved so quickly. In training camp before the season started there was no doubt Alex Smith was the better QB.

  33. truthpwns says: Jan 21, 2013 1:51 PM

    “What will happen when the QB has to stay in the pocket and throw into coverage?”

    ———————–

    so see the answer to your question above, rewatch Kaepernick’s performance in yesterday’s NFCCG.

  34. dcbronco says: Jan 21, 2013 1:58 PM

    It funny to listen to all of the “experts”. Now they see so much for Kaepernick. When he was coming out of college they said he wouldn’t make it. They said his release was too slow. Elongated. Ignoring that his ball was a lot faster than most of the other QBs in the air. Which means the balls speed cuts the time a defender has to react and compensates for the elongated release.

    What Kaepernick is doing now is no different from what he was doing in college. Poise is poise. Speed is speed. Accuracy is accuracy. “Experts” need to stop looking at only the big schools. GMs too.

    49ers obviously smarter than the average bear. Or I should say Bronco or Redskin. Both needed a QB and both were in prime position to take Kaep. Both eventually got a QB. Both paid a lot higher price than they needed to.

  35. 49erstim says: Jan 21, 2013 2:01 PM

    I am an Alex Smith supporter. I have even worn his Jersey during both playoff games just to show my respect for him. I was unhappy at the time when Coach made the switch. I just did not think Kaep was ready….but I have been proven wrong. The kid has skills and has demonstrated that with him at the helm this team is never out of the game. It’ll be tough to see Alex go, but he does deserve to be a starter.

    Also….. I was ecstatic when Manning chose Denver. I think he is overrated. Don’t get me wrong I think he a good QB, but he isn’t on the level of Tom, Eli or Brees as far as needing a playoff game winning drive who do you want. Great regular season QB to be sure, but history is made in January and February.

  36. dalucks says: Jan 21, 2013 2:12 PM

    Some Texans fans wish Gary Kubiak was smart enough to bench Matt Schaub during December.
    Unfortunately, Kubiak has tied his anchor to Matt Schaub and Kubiak will go down with the sinking ship.

  37. finsphan says: Jan 21, 2013 3:09 PM

    Got two words for all the people hoping for the “new era” of running qb’s…..wild cat. It’s a fad, it will get figured out and end. If not for a fumbled snap and a receiver falling down atl would have won that game by 10.

  38. redandgoldenbears says: Jan 21, 2013 3:36 PM

    And if not for a fumble at the goal line, a missed fg and a harry douglas catch that really wasn’t the falcons are blown out at home when it counts as usual. Even Manti didn’t believe douglas caught that ball

  39. cometkazie says: Jan 21, 2013 4:59 PM

    Atlanta got beat cuz they aren’t that good.

    Atlantans are good football fans. They follow college football.

  40. dlmcc1010 says: Jan 21, 2013 6:35 PM

    I wish one of the Harbaugh’s were coaching the Giants.
    ———————————————————-

    How do you make a statement like this? The Giants won Super Bowls in 2007 and 2012 with that coach. Both times as the underdog. The Giants were a disapointment this year but you cant win every year in this league

  41. rsbeck says: Jan 21, 2013 6:39 PM

    If Alex Smith had played on Sunday, my hunch is that we lose and today his apologists would be saying that if Akers hadn’t missed the FG and Crabtree hadn’t fumbled, we’d have won.

    Sure Williams’ fumble didn’t help, but it also didn’t help that in last year’s NFC Campionship game, Alex was flat. Alex could have helped in the game in spite of the fumbles.

    Unlike Alex Smith, Kaepernick doesn’t follow a great performance in the divisional round – a rare one one for Alex – with a thud back to Earth.

    Unlike Alex, Kaepernick keeps piling up great performances. Colin doesn’t just flash the potential a couple of times per season to tantalize you and then crash back to mediocrity.

    Smith’s numbers only show that Harbaugh ins a QB friendly offense that will let a mediocre QB compile great stats. And as long as you don’t watch the games for context, those numbers will look really impressive.

    With Kaepernick, no need for excuses, no need to torture the numbers on his behalf, instead, we’re going to the Super Bowl.

  42. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Jan 21, 2013 6:54 PM

    Jim is a competitor and isn’t afraid to take a risk or two in order to win a championship. There are many conservative and spineless NFL coaches who can learn from his approach.

  43. iowahbr says: Jan 21, 2013 7:48 PM

    After what Kaepernick did this year for the 49ers I can believe the number of Smith grinders still posting. How many relatives does Smith have?

  44. iowahbr says: Jan 21, 2013 7:50 PM

    After what Kaepernick did this year for the 49ers I can’t believe the number of Smith grinders still posting. How many relatives does smith have?

    I’ll get this right somehow but an edit after posting feature would be nice.

  45. questforthesixthnotthelast2013 says: Jan 21, 2013 11:46 PM

    53 for certain to answer your family member comment.
    he gets a ring too I believe!!

  46. ndirish10 says: Jan 22, 2013 12:53 PM

    Finally journalist started calling the 49ers offense as it should, the pistol or spread option! Simply annoyed when I would hear announcers or writers call it the “Wildcat” when the QB was at the helm.

  47. ninernation1982 says: Jan 22, 2013 3:29 PM

    Let me just say that it wasn’t two fumbles that cost the Niners a trip to the Super Bowl last year it was going 1-13 on 3rd down conversions. If we were able to convert on third down we would have been able to manage the game much better and the fumbles may not have even been a factor. Our defense being on the field and holding it down like they did was the only reason we got as far as we did last year. Saying Alex Smith took us to the NFC Championship last year is like saying Trent Dilfer won the Ravens the Superbowl in 2000. Also, I keep hearing that Smith and Kap’s stats are the same; statistically almost identical. I admit it, numbers don’t lie when they throw the ball their stats are pretty similar. However, no one seems to bring up the stat that puts Kap on another level than Smith; his rushing yards. In 8 ½ games Smith rushed for 132 yards. In 7 ½ games Kap rushed for 415 yards. That’s why Kap is such a threat; he brings a whole new dynamic to the offense. Defenses have to game plan for him or he’ll eat them alive, I don’t think the same thing can be said about Alex Smith. Don’t get me wrong I wish him the best where ever he plays next year, but I’m much more comfortable having Kap in the huddle going into the Super Bowl then Smith. Go Niners!

  48. iowahbr says: Jan 22, 2013 4:00 PM

    Boy are you going to hear from the running QB’s are an impossible thing in the NFL crowd. In the 60′s so were 300 lb. linemen.

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