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NFC West: Quarterback Controversy in San Francisco

Coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers has a full blown quarterback controversy on his hands now. There are unwritten rules for the situation the 49ers were in when first string quarterback Alex Smith went down a few weeks ago in a game with the St. Louis Rams with a concussion. One is, “you don’t lose your job to an injury”. But wait a minute, what about Lou Gehrig? He came in for Wally Pipp because Wally couldn’t go one day and he stayed in the lineup for over 2000 games. What about that?

Obviously there are exceptions to every rule. And when Colin Kaepernick came in for Smith and performed well, he put Harbaugh on the spot. But there is another rule Harbaugh broke. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. San Francisco has been leading this division all season with Smith at quarterback. Replacing him was a very risky move. So far it has worked. that is up until the Niners met the Rams again this week. And as former quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an analyst on ESPN pointed out,when you have a team that’s goal is to win a Super Bowl, you don’t need a new QB to come in and make a “slash plays”. The quarterback position is now about making the smart decisions.

He went on to point out that Kaepernick had an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone that gave the Rams two points. He also made a bad pitch that Janoris Jenkins fell on in the end zone for a touchdown. The Rams converted a two point conversion to tie the game 10-10 at that point. All ten points came about on those two Kaepernick mistakes. Then the most critical mistake was when he ran out of bounds to stop the clock with about 1:30 left in regulation. Had he stayed in bounds and ran more time of the clock, the Rams don’t tie the game on a 53 yard field goal on the last play of regulation from Greg Zuerlein. Zuerlein then won the game with a 54 yarder with 30 seconds left to give the Rams a 4-0-1 record inside the NFC West.

Colin Kaepernick is a great talent. And he is a Harbaugh draft pick. So it is understandable that he wants to go with him. But when you have a potential Super Bowl teams already in place, do you really want to change quarterbacks in mid season? Especially when the starter was winning games. Not to mention, the Niners have created a situation the NFL doesn’t want. They want players to come forward if they have a possible concussion. But NFL players fear of being replaced is greater than any fear of long term injury. And now they will be wondering if they do, will they become the nest Alex Smith?

But from a winning standpoint, Harbaugh may now have to go back to Smith now. Kaepernick made some great plays in the game on Sunday, but it was three “rookie mistakes” that cost them the game. And while young quarterbacks need to make mistakes so they can learn, you don’t do that on a team that has the potential to win it all. If the Niners were a 5-11 type team, this is a whole different scenario. But they aren’t. They can’t afford to turn the offense over to the kid just yet.

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