Colin Kaepernick’s playing time a hot topic in San Francisco

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After 49ers quarterback Alex Smith played his worst game of the Jim Harbaugh era in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Giants, the question in San Francisco is being asked: Is it time for Colin Kaepernick?

Kaepernick, the quarterback the 49ers selected in the second round of last year’s NFL draft, has been getting a fair amount of playing time this season, running some of the same read option concepts he ran in college at Nevada, where he was the only player in major college football history to have more than 10,000 passing yards and more than 4,000 rushing yards. (It’s technically not the same thing as the Wildcat, although that’s how many people refer to the Kaepernick package.) This year for the 49ers Kaepernick has completed five of nine passes for 89 yards, and run 12 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns. In limited action as a change of pace, Kaepernick has played very well.

But does that mean Kaepernick deserves more playing time? The most extreme opinion is that Harbaugh should bench Smith and make Kaepernick the starter. From all indications, that’s not going to happen. As Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News notes, Harbaugh has never wavered in his support of Smith, and one game — even the worst game Harbaugh has seen Smith play — will almost certainly not be enough to change that.

The second opinion is that Smith should remain the starter but Kaepernick should get more playing time. That’s definitely a possibility, considering how effective the 49ers’ offense has been with Kaepernick running it. All the endless offseason hype about what Tim Tebow could do with the Jets? That’s what Kaepernick has actually done. And it could make sense for Harbaugh to have Kaepernick do more of it.

However, there’s another point of view, which is that Kaepernick shouldn’t get any playing time at all because Smith can’t do his job as the starting quarterback effectively if he’s getting taken out before he can get the offense in rhythm. Harbaugh suggested after the loss to the Giants that he’s thinking about that: When he was asked if he had any concerns that putting Kaepernick in so much obstructs the flow of the offense, Harbaugh answered, “Yes.” And when he was asked if the use of Kaepernick was a problem on Sunday, Harbaugh acknowledged that it could have been, saying, “Perhaps. I mean, the plan wasn’t the best plan.”

On Thursday the 49ers host the Seahawks in a crucial game in the NFC West, and from Harbaugh’s post-game comments it sounds like, if anything, he’s leaning toward using Kaepernick less. But if Smith plays badly in another 49ers loss, that could lead to Harbaugh using Kaepernick more. And maybe even using Kaepernick exclusively.

62 responses to “Colin Kaepernick’s playing time a hot topic in San Francisco

  1. Tim Kawakami is wrong, it is not just “one game”. Alex Smith now has played terrible in three out of the team’s last 4 games with his only good game coming against the awful Bills last week. This team is very limited with what it can do with Smith and if they get behind at any point in any game its going to be tough for them. Regardless, this team is clearly not a Superbowl contender with Smith.

  2. Anyone who watched yesterday knows that the 9ers had no rhythm b/c every time Smith made a good play, they took him out and had Kaep in there. Kaep is great for a gimmick play or two a game, but he’s not ready to make run an offense, make good reads, etc. Smith has been very good this year and should be the starter for this year (and possibly more if he plays like the first five games and less like yesterday). Every QB has a bad game, yesterday’s was disasterous, but Smith is still a better QB than most fans want to give him credit for, and he is who should be starting.

  3. Since Harbaugh has actually played QB in the NFL, I would tend to side with him… although it’s a lot of fun watching Kaeper get in there..

  4. Play Smith and him at the same time. Neither is the QB they need.
    Neither are as good as Dilfer was for the Ravens or Doug Williams was for the Redskins.
    In fact. They are both horrible.
    I hope Seattle eats their lunch and Harbaugh whines some more

  5. I said in the preseason when I saw this kid that Smith needs to stay healthy b/c this kid will definitely is the future for the 49ers. He younger, has a better arm and more athletic. Smith can’t play coming from behind, that is not his strong point.

  6. Every Monday theres so much knee jerk. Last week the 49ers were the best team in the history of Sports, today they are awful and need major changes.

  7. The guy had the best QB rating going into this game.

    So, I ask, whey disturb the offense for these gimmicks. This stuff work on the jets, but will NOT work on disciplined teams.

  8. I don’t recall the Wild-Kaep package working well for San Fran yesterday either. He had one good play yesterday, thats it.
    I don’t think either QB can play well playing from behind.

  9. A complete knee jerk reaction. Aside from one pass, Kaepernick didn’t do much against the Giants yesterday either. Colinsworth–a noted Giants critic–even said, “Now he knows what Alex Smith has had to deal with all day,” when referring to Kaepernick being chased down and sacked.

    Smith isn’t one to lead a team to victory, that’s for sure, but to say that Kaepernick could do better is an overreaction. Is it possible the only reason Kaepernick is able to have the success he’s had in his limited opportunities is because he’s had limited opportunities and opponents don’t plan for him?

  10. if they were sold on smith they wouldn’t have flirted with manning.and make no mistake, if manning wanted to be a 49er, he would be ….period.

  11. Switching to Kaepernick yesterday hurt them more than help them in almost every single circumstance. CK is only effective if you are scared of him running. Giants face Vick twice a year so it wasn’t a huge threat to them. Stupid game plan. Almost looked like they took the exact game plan for all 3 of the past games. Even the shots down field were on the same types of routes. Maybe looking ahead a little because they certainly weren’t creative or prepared

  12. Niners got away with stalled drives and bad 3rd down conversion stats last season winning a lot of games despite those numbers. Not getting away with that this year. Smith lacks the ability to consistently come from behind via the pass. The big question here is – would Kaepernick be any better? Won’t really know until you try.

  13. The niners ran for a total of 17 times. 17 TIMES… and for a nice 4.7 yard average at that. Every time Alex got the chains moving, they brought in CK. To say the game plan yesterday was bad is an understatement. This match looked like it was game planned by Rex Ryan and company. Leave Alex in and stick to pounding the rock, that is the ingredient to winning in SanFran.

  14. Problem: Smith melts down at home again (don’t act like this is a new problem)

    Solution: Give Smith more playing time and more control of the offense


    Personally? I would do what Chuck Noll did to Bradshaw – let him sit for a couple games and watch the other guy. Give him time to decide if he wants to be a real NFL QB 100% of the time, or if he would prefer to go sell used cars for a living.

  15. 1 game or not, the 49ers have strong competition within their division this year, and im not talking ’bout the cardinals…lol..If Seattle continue to improve, this could get interesting.

  16. As Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News notes, Harbaugh has never wavered in his support of Smith …

    Sure. Sure. I guess Hairbough chasing manning around the country, chapping his lips on his behind doesn’t count as wavering support. Hairbough threw Smith under the bus and he’s lucky that Smith is still around and not in Miami.
    Otherwise Hairbough might have to QB the team himself and then he’d have to chew his own a$$ out like Ditka used to do to him.

  17. Kaep is good for a couple of plays a game but they used him too much and at very questionable times (3rd and 6; right after Smith hits a big play to Moss)

    You need to stick with one or the other most of the game to maintain flow. Even more so when your offense is struggling.

  18. So Alex Smith plays well enough to take the team to a Super Bowl and lost in the championship game because of his team mates.

    Six weeks into a dominating season and the team lost to the defending Super Bowl Champions.

    This is just cause to bench him and call for the backup?


  19. So glad everyone can guarantee that if Manning wanted to be a niner he would be. Not like its your $40M this season and $100m overall you ate hypothetically spending right? Maybe, just maybe Denver was the only ones truly willing to give that kind of dough with virtually no money. Remember his first 2 years are fully guaranteed and the others only require passing a simple physical.

  20. I don’t think any 49er fan is calling for a change at QB. Smith is having just as good or maybe even better year than he did last year but they got beat by another good team. The Giants got up early and took away their run game, any QB is going to need to be on top of his game in obvious passing situation. Smith wasn’t but they take the loss and get ready for a great division game on Thursday night.

  21. The Niners lost because they got away from the magic formula…run the ball. Just like against the Vikings, the Niners thought they could surprise the other team with an increased percentage of passes. But what makes the whole offense tick is the consistent run game. Alex will never be the QB we want to take control of a game with his arm. Just accept that fact and the season will be much more consistent. I guess the games against the Jets and Bills got the team over confident again. And Kaepernick, as much as I like all he can offer, still has a lot of growing to do. He is not ready to take over the starting role. We’ll see what 2013 brings, but for 2012, it will be Alex or bust.

    And I gotta give it up to the Giants, they handed it to us and seemed to know what was coming most of the time.

  22. It’s one game, slow down people. The entire 49ers offense never got into a rhythm yesterday. Part of that stems from the fact that they just aren’t used to playing from behind. It’s rare that they are down, and very rare that they are down by more than 10 points. Look at the Giants, they were down 13 against Tampa Bay, 14 against Cleveland, and go through it a lot. They are a great team at playing from behind. The 49ers were never down against Detroit, Green Bay, Buffalo, or the Jets. The only game they were down they lost before yesterday. They got away from their gameplan far too early in that game. Down 14 they chucked it up to Delanie Walker on first down and it got intercepted. Why not run the ball there? Frank Gore didn’t touch the ball in the last 39 minutes, and that is not the way their offense runs. It’s just one game.

  23. Smith wont play good with that bullseye on his back and Kaep wouldn’t either.
    Gimmick quarterbacks always look good for change ups but once defenses start game planning for him it’s gone pecan.

  24. That’s it? One bad game and its time to switch QB. Hilarious.

    Truth is the 49ers are waaaaay overrated. They play tough but really – media hype was getting out of control. They were completely dominated by NY yesterday and they didn’t look that great in defeat to MIN or in that win against anemic Detroit. They have a fantastic D, I will give them that. But on offense they are just dead when they can’t run.

  25. Here’s what needs to be the hot topic.

    1. No sacks for the 9ers, six for the Giants. Manning extremely clean Jersey.
    2. 149 rushing yards for NY, ran the ball down your throat.
    3. 3 ints for your all world QB, laughable
    4. No touchdowns scored for SF after 73 total points the last two games…hmm!!!
    5. First rushing TD given up at home in the last 20 plus games.
    6. First back over 100 yards given up in the last 20 plus games.
    7. Stupid big mouth coach swapping QB’s in and out. Foolish, this isn’t college Jim. You got served by a real coach and a real coaching staff.
    8. Who the heck is Justin Smith??? Was he even on the field???

    Did I miss any stats 9er fans? If so please feel free to fill in the blanks.

    ALL IN…

  26. As Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News notes, Harbaugh has never wavered in his support of Smith.


    What about that one time when he “evaluated” Peyton Manning while opting not to resign Smith as he visited other teams prior to Peyton telling him “no?”

  27. Harbag needs to stop trying to show how smart he is. We get it, you have a few nice little plays (like that misdirection run to Hunter in the NFCCG).

    However, when you’re coaching against some of the upper echelon coaches, that gimmicky, flukey, collegey, read-option/wildcat garbage won’t get it done. There’s a reason pro teams haven’t succeeded with that nonsense since 1932.

    As a Giant fan, everytime Harbag pulled Smith for Kapernick, I smiled. Harbag was SF’s own momentum killer.

  28. Why do people keep repeating this “one bad game” crap? Smith has not had just one bad game he has been thoroughly dreadful in 3 out of the team’s last 4 games. The 49ers are a team built to win some regular season games with Smith at QB. Nothing more.

  29. Just a few thoughts:
    Team loss ,all areas.
    Neither Q.B. did ANYTHING
    Smith threw into quadruple coverage ??
    If Kap had shinned Smith would be justified in worrying…he didn’t
    I would save Kap for 4th qtr. when opposing team is tired.
    Last season Green Bay won every game but one.
    Long season ,49ers had one injury and it is all about getting hot @ play off time.
    Hey ,I’ll take a blow out loss to the world champs @ this point in the season. Hats off to the Giants.

  30. Seems like they would have to change the offense significantly to maximize Kaepernick’s strengths with an option offense. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Shanahans and Robert Griffin are showing that college option offenses CAN work in the NFL with the single and double option (and introducing yesterday, the triple option). I thought Kaepernick had an awesome college career and that he should have gone sooner than the second round. But whateves. #NFCWest #meh # lategames

  31. The giants running stats are mostly just stats. The 49ers had great success stopping the run early. The game was over late 3rd qtr. and the Giants ran…big deal.
    The sack stats ZERO and apparent lack of pass rush are significant. Eli has 2 rings so I think he can get rid of the ball pretty good ?

  32. Team loss all areas? Thats a load of crap. the defense actually played well holding them to only 26 points despite 3 ghastly picks from Smith where he looked every bit like a bad rookie. The offensive line didn’t play poorly until late. Tell me how many teams can win games with their QB throwing three picks with less than 100 yards passing and a passer rating of 40 going into the fourth quarter? Smith is awful.

  33. Niners went away from the formula. Run the ball, play great Dee and don’t turn it over. Smith had his moment against a crappy Saints Dee last year but other than that, he’s really not the comeback Kid. He should be a game manager not asked to win it on his ability, he’s just not that guy.

  34. LULZ

    Weren’t we just talking about how the 9ers were the first team to go 300 and 300 in terms of offensive production and “OMG balance!”and now they need to replace the QB?

    I love the media, man. Always good for a laugh.

  35. Kaepernick is going to be the opening day starter in 2013 anyways…so why NOT get him more experience? Are you really gonna go with Alex Smith forever? No.

    Don’t believe me? Look at Smith’s contract. They can get out of that after this year no problem. Harbaugh did not trade up in the really 2nd last year to get in front of Oakland for nothing.

    This kid can be really special.

  36. “However, when you’re coaching against some of the upper echelon coaches, that gimmicky, flukey, collegey, read-option/wildcat garbage won’t get it done.”
    It’s actually worked quite well except for yesterdays game against the Giants if you look at the teams the 49ers have beaten since Harbaugh. He’s beaten Coughlin, Mike McCarthy, Andy Reid, Tomlin, Payton and of course the ever-so-great Rex Ryan. And yes, it is only 1 game. Remember that awesome Giants performance week 1 against Dallas? Or how about that loss to the mediocre Eagles? At least the 49ers 2 losses are to 2 first place teams that are also above .500.

    That being said, yesterday was quite an embarassment. Great Job, G-Men. Hopefully we’ll get yet another shot at you guys in the play-offs.

  37. Niners went away from a great game plan last 2 weeks too kaep. It’s a good move it run the wild kaep only when were ahead or a closer game. It seemed unfair to Alex when he made a play or got into a good pace he was takin out he didn’t get to show an ability to be able to come from behind Niners had a chance the d was holding the giants to field goals

  38. He definitely looks like a great athlete, but history suggests that running qbs don’t win Super Bowls

    Not necessarily true the last QB that won a Super Bowl for the 49ers was a mobile QB. Not only that he won 3 super bowls. People tend to forget that Steve Young was a mobile QB. He has a true dual threat QB that could hurt you with his arm and legs.

  39. Just like Alex Smith going thru multiple offensive coordinators and having no flow in the Niner offense, the same goes for putting Kaepernick in when the Niners are behind by 2+ scores.

    Kaepernick is not ready to be a full-time QB. He took a horrible sack after the long bomb to Moss and that put the Niners out of scoring position.

    What an elite QB does that makes a difference is the ability to step up in the pocket to buy more time and make a throw. Guys like Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger and the Mannings are unbelievable at this and have great pocket awareness while looking downfield.

    This is Smith’s biggest weakness. He has improved greatly but still feels like a game manager instead of a leader in the huddle. He seems too robotic as a QB and if the rush comes, he doesn’t have the ability to move around and lengthen he play.

  40. Going back to last year, everytime the 49ers came out pass-heavy instead of trying to establish the run first, smith struggled and Niners lost! Last year vs Dallas, Baltimore and Arizona and this year against Minnesota and now Giants. Game planning was just as much a factor in this game as Smith’s play was.

  41. wow.. in the age of twitter i think a lot of people of 140 character limit to their thoughts as well… such short attention span!
    he had ONE bad game… i cant believe we are talking about replacing him…

  42. Smith will be the starter for sure this year but next year I am leaning toward CK7 being the starter just looking at what they are doing even when smith is in they are running the pistol formation a lot and that is right out of Kaeps college playbook looks like they are setting it up for him

  43. I don’t see how more Kaepernick helps you at this point, unless you need someone to run to Starbucks for you.

    The 9ers got whooped on by a good team. It happens to everyone at some point. Best to put it behind you and get back to what you were doing when you were winning.

  44. Whether people see it or not Harbaugh knows the ceiling for Smith is essentially maximized. That’s not a discredit to Smith but it is the facts. Harbaugh knows, especially after watching an elite qb like Manning on the other side, you have to have a quarterback that can threaten the field. It’s not coincidental that Kaep came in to throw the deep ball to Randy Moss. Kaep has a much greater arm and deep-throwing ability than Smith. Harbaugh is trying to basically work as a mad-scientist and use the best abilities of both QBs.

    But more than that….integrating Kaep slowly into the offensive scheme of things (a) forces teams to prepare for both QBs and (b) gives JH more choices when it comes to passing the ball because teams have more Harbaugh/Smith tape to now go after them.

    The real problem that exist with the 49ers is their consistent inability to effectively come from behind. If they’re playing with a lead their defense can hunker down while the offense does ball-control and runs the clock out.

    The Giants played one heck of a game and showed why they are Super Bowl Champs, no questions. But it’s a long season and we’re only in the 2nd quarter of this season. A lot of football to still be played.


  45. @surferbum – Smith threw the bomb to Moss, not Kapernick.

    The real problem exists with Harbag. He’s trying too hard to prove to the world that he’s the smartest coach to ever don a headset. If he wants to prove how smart he is, he should go rent 1990 America’s Game and run the same, exact offense that the 90’s Giants ran to win a top seed and beat some of the greatest offenses ever created with a punishing running game, stingy defense, and an extremely pedestrian passing game. That would impress me more rather than watch him trot out that lame pistol formation with Kap faking an option handoff in an empty backfield.

  46. Talking about removing Smith is way too premature. Its 1 bad game out of 6, Its not the end of the world. Yes, Smith looked incompetent, but everyone has a bad game or two, nobody is perfect. No changes need to be made. Not now. Not even after another bad game. It seems to me that as long as the Defense is playing good ball, then Alex Smith has no problem leading his team to a victory. If the Defense gets them behind, Smith struggles. Its as simple as that.

  47. Kawakami whose opinion you quote wasn’t even at the game yesterday.

    He’s the Skip Bayliss of the Bay area. Writes any rubbish to stir up controversy.

    For those that actually watch the games, it’s blindingly obvious Kap is not ready to be an NFL starter yet.

  48. davidjcu says: Oct 15, 2012 2:06 PM

    He definitely looks like a great athlete, but history suggests that running qbs don’t win Super Bowls

    Not necessarily true the last QB that won a Super Bowl for the 49ers was a mobile QB. Not only that he won 3 super bowls. People tend to forget that Steve Young was a mobile QB. He has a true dual threat QB that could hurt you with his arm and legs.

    Dude WHAT? Young won ONE superbowl not 3. How did 7 people even like that comment? That is how you determine a bandwagoner

  49. Also Young was mobile and a true dual threat but he was a pass first QB. CK, Vick, RG3, Cam… etc are a lot quicker to take off than let a pass develop

  50. @justintuckrule:

    I agree with everything you said, except that the 1990 Niners did not have the prolific offense they had the year before. They struggle offensively all year! That said, this 9ers team reminds me of that 90 Giants team… Except this team hasn’t yet shown the “heart” the former did all year long. This team so far has won and lost by domination which tells me they’re relying on talent alone and lack that oomph factor!

  51. captainwisdom8888 says:
    Oct 15, 2012 11:25 AM
    He definitely looks like a great athlete, but history suggests that running qbs don’t win Super Bowls


    “I disagree.”


    Steve Young

    4200 career rushing yards, 5.9 yards a carry, 43 rushing TDs, 537 rushing yards in 1992, 5 years with 400+ rushing yards.

  52. Kap is a stud. Anyone who watched him play for extended periods in pre-season (or at NV) knows he can work his way down the field and score TDs. He also has the arm strength (and vision) to hit Moss deep.

  53. Alex is what he’s always been with a few improvements. Kaep isn’t yet what he will be. But we all knew that going into the game. The two main issues are 1) knowing that what the hell is up with that gameplan? This team should NEVER have 3 consecutive pass plays. And 2) wtf has happened to Justin & Aldon Smith?!?

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