“I usually tend to go with the guy who has the hot hand. We got two quarterbacks who have a hot hand.” That was Jim Harbaugh about 20 minutes after Kaepernick’s masterful primetime performance. Reading too much into his comments it appears as though he realized he tipped his hand, but wanting to maintain a competitive advantage, added that his former starter, Alex Smith, also had a hot hand. We hope his intentions are to give Kaepernick an extended look under center, his best chance at a Super Bowl title are with the Nevada product under center.
Vernon Davis agrees, “I feel like somebody took the handcuffs off me,” were his exact comments when asked about his Monday Night performance. Judging from all reports from the 49ers locker room that was the general consensus from everyone. This was a good team with Alex Smith under center, but this could be a truly special team with Kaepernick.
Up until his Week 11 gem, Kaepernick was primarily known for his legs and inconsistent mechanics in preseason. Clearly, Harbaugh was hiding a beast. The Bears were not prepared for anything that the 49ers threw at them as they assumed they would be facing off against a run-heavy attack with the passing game emphasizing screens, quick timing throws, and play action; they assumed incorrectly.
Kaepernick handled himself with the poise of a veteran and Harbaugh showed sides of his play book that were not possible with Smith under center. One play that sticks out demonstrating how Kaepernick managed the game was a 2nd down & 10 play in the 3rd quarter. Kaepernick’s first read was not there and pressure came in from both the A gap and the strong side. He escaped both rushers, as well as another one during scramble mode, and instead of tucking it and running or stepping out of bounds for a modest loss he had the frame of mind to get outside the pocket and throw it away under duress.
The very next touchdown was an incredible touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree that would not have been called had they been in 3rd & 20 as the previous play was looking like before Kaepernick was able to throw the ball away. Most veterans don’t make that play, let alone players making their first professional start.
There are going to be growing pains as with any young signal caller, but if he is even 90% as good as he was in his debut the 49ers are going to go very deep into the playoffs again. Long term, he is the obvious play, but last week showed that he is just as strong of a bet now as the incumbent, Smith. Fantasy owners must take an add now, ask questions later approach with Kaepernick. While his legs were not called upon much in Week 11, he has the ability to run for 50-100 yards every game.
What he did show Monday Night was that he also has the ability to consistently throw for 250 yards and a couple of scores. He does not have the upside of a Robert Griffin III, but he has more upside than every other QB currently on waivers and likely at least one (i.e. Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers) on your current roster. He might not be needed for the stretch run, depends on who your starter is, but playing defense and keeping him off your opponents roster will help you almost as much as if you were actually starting him. Expect Harbaugh to wise up this week, start him vs. New Orleans, and enjoy him light up the scoreboard. Future stud staring right at you.