Here is the opening to my column which calls for Colin Kaepernick to be the Niners starting QB:


Let the quarterback controversy begin.

Colin Kaepernick should be the 49ers’ starting quarterback and Alex Smith should not. Kaepernick must be the starter — it’s obvious — and if Jim Harbaugh goes back to Smith out of misplaced loyalty or just plain stubbornness, he is making the mistake of his life.

But I don’t believe Harbaugh will go back to Smith. I firmly believe the transition from Smith to Kaepernick already happened, as in done deal. After the game, Harbaugh was asked if Kaepernick is his starting quarterback going forward.

“We’ll see,” Harbaugh replied.

For Smith, that was the reply of death. It was Harbaugh’s chance to say Smith still is his quarterback, to endorse him. Harbaugh chose not to.

To read the full column click here.

Be Sociable, Share!



  1. wilson

    I don’t believe a team has ever won the Super Bowl after switching QB’s midseason. Brady took over in week 2 for Bledsoe. It seems after tonight Kaep may be the QB of the future. But aren’t the Niners trying to win it all now?

    November 19th, 2012 11:01 pm

  2. mendozaline

    Lowell, you wrote concerning getting the ball to Davis that “Smith…didn’t have the guts to do it.” You can critique the performance of both QBs without resorting to that kind of writing. You are better than that. Why did you later add that “Smith is the gutsy loser,” Why do you call Smith both gutsy and gutless in the same column?

    November 19th, 2012 11:06 pm

  3. CohnZohn

    mendozaline, probably because i was in a hurry on deadline. If I had it to do over again I might change the word. Thanks for pointing it out. You did it in a generous way. Happy Thanksgiving.

    November 19th, 2012 11:11 pm

  4. D Harte

    So when young Colin missed a WIDE open Kyle Williams last week against the Rams–no one on the Rams had even bothered to cover Williams you may remember–a mistake which cost the 49ers a victory, what did you think then, Lowell? Super Bowl winner?

    Hard to say whether you’re more foolish or obvious here. But without a doubt you’ve got your chew toy ready for the near future. So grind away.

    Still, if you think the kid, after one excellent game, is ready to beat Drew Brees (which Alex did), or Aaron Rodgers (which Alex did) or Eli (which Alex would have done if the 49ers Special Teams coach had not been brain dead before that second fumble…in OT no less), you really don’t know football. CK has a great future. He also has shown us painful rookie mistakes. Play him in spots, but switch now? Makes no sense when the 3rd highest rated QB in the game is on your team as well. But that logic won’t sell papers, will it Lowell?

    And you wonder why people laugh at sportswriters?

    November 19th, 2012 11:35 pm

  5. CohnZohn

    D Harte, I will post this comment. But I tell you this. Your posts are acerbic and always put-downs. That’s your business. But this is my blog. I say this publicly — I will begin to trash you, as I did earlier today, because I just don’t appreciate this kind of personal comment — Zohn reader to me — and this kind of constant downer comment. So I have served notice on you, although if you would like to meet me at Crossroads Cafe on campus, when I am teaching creative wrtiing in the spring, I will be happy to buy you a coffee and discuss the opening lines of Don Quijote which have fascinated me for decades. Lowell

    November 19th, 2012 11:42 pm

  6. chewie

    I think Harbaugh has already given his answer on who will start next week – it will be Smith, no question. If Harbaugh wasn’t starting Smith, he would have sat Kaepernick the last 5 minutes when the game was out of reach and let Tolzien play the rest of the way. You never put your starter in needless danger, thus Kaepernick is not the starter. Based on Smith’s last game against the Saints, Harbaugh must feel that he deserves another shot.

    November 19th, 2012 11:44 pm

  7. chewie

    P.S. – thanks for the gentlemanly response to an obvious internet troll. I am amazed at how some can have such hate for a stranger. Please, save your hate for people you actually know!

    November 19th, 2012 11:48 pm

  8. petey

    I just think the ship has sailed on this season and to change courses now might hinder our chances. Despite the elation from this game, I actually think this is a pretty tough spot for the Niners to be in. This is when you begin to set yourselves up for a playoff run and the Niners are going to make a QB change. Lowell, you’ve got to love this. Tons of fodder to fill your pages.

    November 20th, 2012 12:21 am

  9. Dr. Feelgood

    On the way to the game we discussed the Colin proposition. We’ve seen flashes in his limited opportunities, but nothing that would suggest naming him starter.
    Tonight, all that changed. The mobility, the elusiveness, his command of getting the team into and out of the huddle, his command of the audibles, were all so far beyond anything he’s shown to this point. And his passing, WOW. He missed a couple and there were a few drops but you’d have o be blind to not see his confidence and comfort in throwing the ball, whether from in the pocket, rolling out, or being chased. He looks like the real deal.
    This is going to be a very interesting week. Big decision time for the coaches, with heavy morale implications. Easiest way out is for Alex to spend it in the black jersey.

    November 20th, 2012 12:35 am

  10. Abel

    Smith sympathizers just AMAZE me!

    D Harte, you mean to tell me Alex doesn’t miss anyone? How about Moss in the Seattle game or Delanie against the Lions? He missed Delanie EXACTLY how Kap missed Kyle Williams. EXACTLY. Difference is, Kap is only in his 2nd year and that was his first game. Alex doesn’t get that slack because he’s an 8th year vet. He’s supposed to be better than that.

    And if you’re going to blame the loss in the NFC Championship game on Kyle and not on the fact that Alex went 1 for 13 on 3rd downs then sir YOU don’t know football. Alex went a combined 5-28 on 3rd downs in the playoffs. Pathetic. Alex even said so himself. It was HIS fault, not Kyle’s.

    November 20th, 2012 1:56 am

  11. Abel

    Mr Zohn,

    GREAT WORK! You’re just calling a spade a spade. Nothing wrong with that.

    November 20th, 2012 1:57 am

  12. Johnc

    Even if Smith starts the next game I think he will get hit in the head again and be taken out. He looked like he was in dingbat land from the expression on his face on the sideline. He needs more time to recover from that concussion.
    Always been a big fan of Kaepernick. Watched a lot of amazing video of him playing for Nevada at the time he was drafted. He is a gifted athlete with a strong will to win. A money player.

    November 20th, 2012 2:50 am

  13. Streetglide

    The kid is great. He should start; and when he makes rookie errors we all have to cut him slack. And Lowell-san, I have been a huge fan of Colin since he was in college. I would be curious to read some of your columns when he was drafted and last year. Seems to me you didn’t like him or his draft selection. am I wrong?

    November 20th, 2012 5:58 am

  14. Eric Janssen

    Mr. Harte if you can’t stand the heat, well, you know what to do. And we all like to laugh around here, so please take note of Lowell’s response to your letter.
    The Kap, (or Nick the Knife) gave us last night what we’ve been sorely missing. We own the west coast offense. And smash mouth defense now. This is Our domain. We don’t get much respect out here so let’s stick to what we do best. And I’m gonna go ahead and say it- last night the Kap reminded me of Joe, and that’s what been sorely missing. Stats and numbers are all well and good, until someone gets their eye put out.

    November 20th, 2012 6:10 am

  15. mbabco

    I have a better opinion of Alex Smith has a QB than a many of you. I’d like to say I think he should start. But my, oh my, wasn’t that fun last night? Kaepernick made that offense sing. Vernon Davis had a comment about one of his catches.

    “I’m just so proud of him in that moment because the ball that he threw me, it was just one of those balls that you see Tom Brady throw,” Davis said. “Second window, right on the money. Surprise. I didn’t expect the ball to come because we ran that play quite a few times and the tight end usually don’t get the ball on that play.”

    Hard not want to see more of that.

    I’m glad I don’t have to decide who plays. Isn’t Smith 26 completions for his last 28 passes? That’s pretty hot.

    I’m reading that Smith still has post-concussion symptoms so he might not be ready in any case. That would give us another week to see what Kaepernick is capable of.

    November 20th, 2012 7:05 am

  16. Dennis

    Lowell, As I watched the game unfold last night I have to admit I thought about you a lot. Kaepernick looked sensational out there. I was thinking Lowell has got to be loving this because I know I sure was. I agree with just about everything you wrote accept I don’t think Kaepernick replaces Smith right now. I think you underestimate how conservative Harbaugh is. Kaepernick had one brilliant game, and I emphasize brilliant. But what happens if he goes out there against the Saints and throws a ‘stinker’. Do you go back to Smith or do you stick with the kid? What does that do to your teams chemistry? My guess is that if Harbaugh thought that Kaepernick was as good as he played last night he would already be the starter. Smith will remain the starter, if he is cleared to play this week, simply because the he is the less risky choice over the remainder of the season. And Kaepernick is not too bad of a fallback if Smith can’t play (emphasis on CAN”T play). But Kaepernick was definitely “electric” last night .

    November 20th, 2012 8:13 am

  17. mark decker

    Lowell…spot on! I think your key themes of us being starved for good qb play made it all look so much better and the throws kaep did make were so much more about poise/sliding in pocket/seeing the field than the actual throw he made….he really did miss a few guys…the perfomance was VERY good but it wasnt amazing…his performance is much more an indictment of the toyota corolla we have been dealing with….thanks so much for staying on it and also for last night pushing harbuahg” was that an answer”…keep going lowell…keep going!

    November 20th, 2012 8:17 am

  18. Brandon Conway

    LOL @ Smith not having the “guts” to throw it to Davis. I guess Davis didn’t have 4TDs and 300 YDS in 2 playoff games with the “gutless” Smith.

    November 20th, 2012 8:32 am

  19. CohnZohn

    Streetglide, I don’t remember. When I get a chance I’ll look up what I wrote.

    November 20th, 2012 8:33 am

  20. Steve

    Yesterday I stated here that, despite how Kaepernick performs, you don’t replace Smith at this juncture. I gave my reasons. But while watching the game a thought kept occurring to me: Harbaugh, Roman, et al, opened up the play book because Kaep could make the plays and complete the passes that Alex evidently can not. Perhaps that’s why the game plans have been so vanilla. I was thoroughly impressed; Kaep exceeded expectations in every aspect of the game. If he does start in New Orleans and both he and the team play well, I might be tempted to admit that the torch has been passed. But until then, in the words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friends.

    November 20th, 2012 9:32 am

  21. Kommon Senze

    I think Kaepernick clearly has staked his claim as the future. While there had been doubts cast about how he was progressing over the summer, especially when Josh Johnson was signed as a potential backup, I think those doubts should now be erased. The intent when Kaepernick was drafted in the 2nd round a couple summers ago was clearly that, at some point, he would be competing for if not winning the starting job. That he has emerged as a viable future starter, in reality, should not be a total surprise. The timing of when he has emerged, aided by Smith’s misfortune of getting injured, is what may be somewhat surprising, but here is where I differ with the angle many writers and talking heads have taken.

    To me, the story is really the job that Geep Chryst, Roman, and Harbaugh have done in preparing the understudies. Kaepernick, obviously, deserves a ton of accolades for how he has performed, but, to me, this is another sign of the tremendous job the 49ers staff has done in developing their young players.

    Since they arrived, many players, including those who were already here, have grown tremendously. Tarrell Brown was considered somewhat of a disappointment when the staff arrived. He’s now playing at a high level (perhaps even surpassing Carlos Rogers as the top CB on the team). Ray McDonald really blossomed. Alex Boone has become a steady presence at Right Guard (something Chilo Rachal never was). Etc., etc..

    So, yes, there may be a bit of a controversy now. I absolutely do think that Kaepernick has the potential to do things Alex can’t, simply due to his size and athleticism. That said, even though this was a tear down of an elite defense, I’d be wary to over-state his performance. It was fantastic, and he deserves all the credit for executing the game plan to a tee. But there has been precious little game film on Colin, and that always gives the team with the new QB some advantage. Teams will adjust, and the big question is.. how ready is Kaepernick to adjust once some of his weaknesses are exposed?

    Again, I will defer to the coaching staff. They’ve done a terrific job of developing players across the board, and in knowing when they are ready to contribute. I will not say it’s a ‘mistake’ if they chose to go back to Alex, but I will not say it’s a ‘mistake’ if they chose to go with Colin, either. They’ve been so good in making the right call, that it would be foolish of me to even insinuate that I know any better than they do.

    November 20th, 2012 9:50 am

  22. Giants Fan

    Kap was fantastic without a doubt. To say that he’s the unquestioned starter is absurd…remember a guy named Troy Smith? He came out three for 300+ yards and looked like a world beater…then what? Go back a little farther and there was this other guy named JT O”Sullivan…did the same, threw for a lot of yards, then the league caught up with him and clearly he wasn’t a starter in the NFL.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Kap is going to be a superstar. Way better than Randal Cunningham ever dreamed. But is he ready now? I don’t know…he looked good last night, looked awesome, but didn’t look good the week before against a lesser team.

    Alex is an above average QB and he CAN take the Niners to the SB. The only problem is that he’s got a guy behind him that may be better…and will be eventually, we just don’t know when…

    November 20th, 2012 9:52 am

  23. Harrison

    Great article, Lowell. Your columns are a pleasure for this English major to read. Your writing is colorful, like the following passages:

    “In the long ago Alex Smith Era, Davis the Great became a vestigial organ on the Niners, kind of like the team’s appendix.”

    “In the long ago Alex Smith Era, the Niners often didn’t score in the first quarter. The offense would appear dormant or just plain dead. It was on life support — you could see it lying in a hospital bed with tubes and wires coming out of its arms and nose — and it was saved from dying by the stout defense.”

    Well said – keep up the good work! :)

    November 20th, 2012 10:03 am

  24. mbabco

    Lowell & Streetglide, I got interested in what Lowell said. He had a blog & a column around the time they drafted Kaepernick.


    “It was a brilliant stroke by the Niners to draft Colin Kaepernick in the second round — the 49ers traded up no less to get him. What moxie. They even brought Kaepernick and his folks into the building to meet the media Friday night; they drove in from Turlock. Jim Harbaugh said Kaepernick will compete with Alex Smith for the starting job, that’s if Smith is a Niner. I don’t think Kaepernick will be ready as a rookie and I sure hope Smith isn’t in the picture. I wrote my Saturday column about the drafting of this kid.”


    “On Friday, the Niners traded up nine spots to get the quarterback they wanted. They knew exactly what they were doing all along. They did not take a quarterback in the first round because they need someone who can make an impact now — Aldon Smith, the pass rusher. But they clearly need a quarterback a year or two from now, and they traded for Kaepernick and he should be ready when they call on him.”

    November 20th, 2012 10:36 am

  25. chris

    toally agree with you Lowell…….its time for Kapernik all the way. He is the protype QB thats the trend these days like RG3 and Tim Tebow………a QB that can run and pass. The Raiders have that type of QB waiting in the wings in Terrell Pryor and he’ll definitley be the starter in a year or two in Oakland.

    I cant stand this version of the Niners because of Harbaugh and the arrogance of the kickoff team when they taunt the opponent…….but I totally enjoyed watching Colin against the Bears and will root for him to do well while not caring if the Niners win or lose.

    November 20th, 2012 10:42 am

  26. Shane

    This is hilarious!

    Kaepernick looked great, but seriously, the guy threw for 243 yards and 2 TDs. That’s a very Alex-like line. And frankly the supposedly vaunted Bears didn’t look ready to play.

    So haters, I hope this works out for you better than your past cat calls for and obsessions with JT O’Sullivan, Elvis Grbac, and Steve Bono.

    no town does a QB controversy better than SF, but in the past no town has made more controversy with lesser ingredients either.

    and now you want to dump Mr Smith in week 11 for the playoff run. Mr Smith is 6-2 this year, and 13-3 last year. Kaepernick is 1-1.

    Good luck!

    November 20th, 2012 11:18 am

  27. CohnZohn

    mbabco, Thanks for looking up what I wrote — and thank God that’s what I wrote.

    November 20th, 2012 12:13 pm

  28. tkh

    This is probably not an absolute but I would think most successful professional coaches/managers make decisions based on what gives the team the best chance to win and not make decisions on stubborness or other petty reasons.

    November 20th, 2012 1:46 pm

  29. loneraider78

    This is all very premature. Sure, Kaepernick played well……this time. But will he be as effective once teams get a better understanding of him and gameplan accordingly?

    This is not a new phenomenon.

    New guy that nobody has really seen comes in and plays well, then teams catch on and what were his strengths become his weaknesses and he must adjust.

    The element of surprise is now gone for Kaepernick. Can he adjust as the defenses adjust to him?

    You can’t determine that from one game.

    It would be a no brainer if Smith was just playing absolutely terrible, but he’s not. You don’t replace a guy because he got hurt.

    They need to stick with their starter until he fails to produce, and rest assured that they have one heck of a back-up when needed.

    November 20th, 2012 2:08 pm

  30. loneraider78


    I have to disagree with your view. Failure on third down is a TEAM problem. That falls on everyone. Maybe someone missed a block, or didn’t run the right route, or dropped a pass, or maybe…just maybe, a defender just made a great play.

    As a return man your #1 priority is to protect the ball. You may gain yards or even lose yards, but you do not give up the football. Williams did it twice.

    That is on him alone.

    November 20th, 2012 2:59 pm

  31. DHarte

    The point, Lowell, is pretty simple: Alex Smith has been trashed in this town unfairly for years. Was he responsible for Mike Nolan’s vanity and incompetence? For Mike Singletary’s complete ignorance of offensive football strategy? Fans can be foolish and say illogical things, but someone watching the sport for money should be above such nonsense. So if Smith is mediocre, how did he outplay Drew Brees in one of the great playoff games in NFL history? How did he outplay Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau? How in the world is the guy having such a bad season, with four “sinkers” to his name, and yet he’s still completing 70% of his passes for eight yards a play? This isn’t my amateur opinion, this is the view of Peter King, Mike Silver, Trent Dilfer, Steve Young, and a number of other NFL observers and former players.

    So my question for you is also simple: do you really believe that your comments about Smith’s performance this year and last are factual and honest? Or do you see your job as mainly stirring up controversy, even in the face of the facts? Colin Kaepernick may become a great player, he looked wonderful last night, but one home game win (after the kid was only average against the Rams, and did not win against a bad team) proves very little. Let’s see how he does against a bad defense this Sunday on the road in a tough place to play.

    Still, it amazes me how the last two years of first-rate play by Smith, the first time he has ever had real coaching and some stability, have just been trashed. It makes no sense. And that is the downer here. Alex Smith has shown great strength of character and guts (after having both questioned by coaches who were pathetic at their jobs) for years. Frankly, he deserved better from you.

    November 20th, 2012 10:57 pm

  32. Nancy R

    It’s Kaepernick all the way. I like boldness and spontaneity. We beg for boldness from Alex Smith. Kaepernick is boldness and natural talent itself. I looked up the Don Quixote first line and found another one I liked: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there..” The Go Between, LP Hartley. Welcome to the new territory, soon to be the new country of Colin Kaepernick’s Niners.

    November 21st, 2012 7:32 am

  33. ChaunceyMN

    Wow Lowell! This is an out right swing and a miss … an obvious attempt to be controversial, edgy, and sadly, relevant. The record and stats speak for themselves with Alex, so I don’t even have the energy to make the case. I’m sure others have below. I don’t get the extreme negativity in regards to Alex. Nolan, Singletary? Sure. I can picture Alex winning his multiple Super Bowls, and you still writing your column about Alex not getting it done. Remember when Siefert was shown the door after the loss to Green Bay in the NFC Championship? What a low point in 49er history. I going to guess you were probably right on board with that? Anyone here know? I’ll have to pull the old columns.

    November 21st, 2012 8:57 am

  34. CohnZohn

    Nancy R, I read The Go Between last year, flat out great novel.

    November 21st, 2012 9:50 am

  35. Nancy R

    cool! Thanks for the tip Lowell!

    November 21st, 2012 2:44 pm

  36. ChaunceyMN

    Well said DHarte.

    November 23rd, 2012 10:26 am

Submit Your Comments


Required, will not be published