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It’s early Tuesday morning and I have a few more thoughts on the 49ers after last night’s game.

1. I have not seen the fan base this enthusiastic in a long time and it all is about Colin Kaepernick.

2. There clearly is a QB controversy and, get this, Jim Harbaugh started it, if you think about it. He did not endorse Smith, his starter. He said there is competition between him and Kaepernick, raising Kaepernick to Smith’s level. He also said he has no rule that a starter can’t lose his job from injury.

3. I apologize to readers I offended by saying Smith doesn’t have the guts to throw to Vernon Davis. I should have said he sometimes is overly cautious — he is — and does not take a chance in throwing to Davis. In the heat of deadline — with the clock ticking — I sometimes write things the wrong way. My bad for sure.

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30 Comments

  1. Brandon Conway

    1. Fanbases always love the new and sexy. In the future – whenever it is – when Kaep has a bad game, we’ll see how the fanbase responds. My guess – they’ll hate on him like they always hate on bad performances from 49er QBs.

    2. Far too late in the season to change the starter. Yes, a starter can lose a job to injury, but the only times a starting QB has had that happen and the team won the Superbowl was when it was VERY early in the season and the hurt QB was out for several weeks. Warner replaced an out-for-season Green in 1999 in the pre-season. Brady replaced a multi-week injured Bledsoe in Week 2 in 2001. Plus, when Brady was struggling mid-season and Bledsoe was healthy again Bilichek stuck with Brady because it was far too late in the season to play the QB carousel. You just can’t do it in Week 11. You will lose the locker room and the season. I guarantee Harbaugh does everything to squash any semblance of QB controversy with the media today.

    3. Thanks for owning up to the poor choice of words. But ask yourself this: why were you so quick to use such a term in regards to Smith? Why the complete lack of memory for ANYTHING good Smith has done the last couple years. He’s the #3 rated passer, the NFL leader in completion %, the 3rd rated yards-per-attempt passer, etc. He’s playing Top 10, maybe even Top 5 at the position this season overall. Yes, he’s had some poor games this season, but he’s also had some GREAT games. Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Brees, Rodger, etc. have all had the same Great/Poor mix. Matt Ryan has had more than one 4+ INT games. That’s why people look at overall stats – the average for the season equals the outliers. Smith is playing very well, and in his last full game against the Cardinals he smoked them,, on the road, against the #5 pass defense. You don’t need to amputate Smith below the waist to praise Kaeprnick.

    November 20th, 2012 9:17 am

  2. Matt in Newark

    I like the word “electricity” that you used in your previous column regarding the fans’ enthusiasm over Kaepernick. He may take the 49ers to another level just as Marco Scutaro helped to propel the SF Giants.

    Good catch regarding Smith to Davis–as Ted Robinson would say, “Vernon Davis . . . with the play of his life! Alex Smith . . . with the play of his life!”

    November 20th, 2012 9:52 am

  3. Jason Ford

    Lowell ,

    I have read your threads for a while now and always thought you were right on point about alex smith, but sometimes you were very hard on him. With that said, You hit the nail on the head with this one. The telling part was the teammates and their responses to the if or should kaep get the nod. Most teammates around the NFL would step up for their starting quarterback. No one has said anything that would back alex smith as the starter. Will Kaep have his bumps in the road of course he will. But I urge all fans to ask their self one question. Whos ceiling is higher???? Alex Smith is a very good game manager and thats not a bad thing its a back up thing.. Thats the qualities you want in your backup quarterback. Colin has the tools to win superbowls. He reminds me of a Big Ben that blends with RG3.The Niners with Kaep can and would beat the giants and the falcons and just about any body in the AFC.

    November 20th, 2012 10:16 am

  4. Ben

    i don’t know why you’re apologizing for saying Smith didn’t have the guts to throw to Vernon Davis. i don’t know the stats, but the eyeball test validates your statement, and it’s not a coincidence that Vernon was used much more in last night’s start than we’ve seen practically all season.

    November 20th, 2012 10:20 am

  5. Jason Ford

    Brandon,

    Your Points dont add up, every QB struggles but too use eli manning(2 superbowls) Peyton Manning(1 Superbowl)Drew Brees(1 superbowl) and Rodgers(1 superbowl) as your examples just doesnt make sense. To win in this league you have to take reasonable risk.If eli doesnt throw to manningham and tyree in those superbowls the giants dont win..Game Managers are no longer acceptable if you want to win superbowls.Alex doesnt let go of the ball unless he see’s someone wide open, that isnt the NFL. Noone is open everyone is cover .Alex Smith was a good game manager last year and at the beginning of this season but when it counted he couldnt put the giants away and they gave him plenty of chances even before the kyle williams muff’s. Lowell, it is time for the Captain

    November 20th, 2012 10:29 am

  6. RC

    I go back to blog or column you wrote quoting the Great Bill Walsh about Steve Deberg.

    “he is just good enough to get you beat” that’s sometimes how I feel about Smith, but not all the time.

    We have seen a season and a half of Alex with good coaching, he has continually gotten better. However, how much better can he get, and how much better does he need to be to win it all?
    CK has played one game, at home, against a Bears team without there starting qb (so maybe they were down). The Bears dared the Niners to throw (8 men in the box) and CK did a superb job to his credit. I’m just unsure I want to throw my starting QB out with the bath water after one game. I think we all think that Smith is bruised, this can’t be good for his confidence, but then I think this is a big boys league man up? Not sure what I would do in this situation.

    November 20th, 2012 10:31 am

  7. mbabco

    I’m not so sure you lose the locker room if you make a QB change at this time. I would guess they were pretty jazzed by a revitalized offense. It would sure have to be handled right, though.

    November 20th, 2012 10:41 am

  8. FuntoWatchAgain

    What Kaepernick did last night included plays Alex Smith isn’t capable of. Smith has a lot of attributes. He is tough in a resilient way, apparently follows directions to the letter, represents your franchise in a way that garners respect. Alex Smith has not shown he can lead a team to the Super Bowl or fire a 57 yard strike deep downfield. Wow! Future looks great.

    November 20th, 2012 10:52 am

  9. Kommon Senze

    @Brandon

    Just to correct your second point, there have been Super Bowl winning QBs who replaced starters much later than you are suggesting. Jeff Hosteltler replaced Phil Simms in the 15th game of the 1990 season, and he was the QB through the playoffs (including that heartbreaking 15-13 loss by the 49ers that foiled the Bay areas dreams of a 3-peat).

    Doug Williams was only a starter for 2 games (and not in succession) during the 1987 regular season, that had Jay Schroeder as the starter, but he was the guy who led the Redskins through the playoffs, culminating with a MVP performance in the Super Bowl.

    Jim Plunkett took over for Dan Pastorini in the 6th game (relatively early, but not at the start of the season, as you suggest) in 1980, and led the Raiders to the Super Bowl over Philadelphia.

    Now, if you want to argue it hasn’t happened in a long time, that’s fair. But it has happened. There are differences between those situations and the 49ers, of course (e.g., all of those QBs were veterans who had a fair amount of experience under their belts, albeit Hostetler had only two career starts in his 5+ prior seasons), but still.. there have been later season QB changes that did not derail a Super Bowl season.

    November 20th, 2012 11:08 am

  10. Mark M

    That was the best single game performance I’ve seen by any NFL team this year. We finally got answers to some burning questions I’ve had for over a year now….

    How good would our team be with a real QB? Imagine how good our defense would be with an offense that struck first, early, often, etc….? Are our skill position players capable of elevating this offense to an explosive quick strike team that can put up points quickly?

    The answers that I saw last night make me think we’re capable of winning a Super Bowl now. In fact, we could be the favorites at this moment. The defense utterly destroyed that team once we got them down with early points and they were forced to throw a bit more. The offense looked so dangerous, I almost didn’t recognize that this was the same offense we’ve been trotting out there all along under Smith. All of our weapons were utilized well from Vernon, to Gore, to the wide outs. Brilliant game plan by Roman/Harbaugh. It was quite fun listening to Gruden wonder at the array of formations we were throwing at the befuddled Bears defense.

    I’m still in shock from that complete beat down we layed on a very tough team last night. What a glorious day!

    November 20th, 2012 11:29 am

  11. Kommon Senze

    Lowell.. a couple other points to remember.

    1) As implied by Brandon, there’s an old saying that says “the backup QB is often the most popular player on a team.” And, while I think Kaepernick has done things that have earned him that current popularity, such emotion can be ephemeral. There’s another saying that goes “what have you done for me lately?” If Kaepernick lays an egg, say, when the 49ers travel to New Orleans, New England, or, worse yet, Seattle, that good will could go by the wayside. He had an outstanding game; one that should be applauded. But it was still one game. Alex was 20-6 over the past year and a half; fans were ecstatic after his play in the game against New Orleans (and not so ecstatic the next week after the loss against the Giants). Fans can be fickle that way.

    2) Trent Dilfer has made a very good point in a couple interviews today regarding Harbaugh’s comment. He stated that, knowing Harbaugh fairly well, he feels Harbaugh stuck his foot in his mouth because, as usual, he often talks off the cuff (a reason, Dilfer added, that Harbaugh may often be curt in sessions, because he knows his propensity to say things that aren’t well thought out if he’s not careful). Team chemistry is an underrated aspect of team sports, and the 49ers have done a good job of maintaining good camaraderie during Harbaugh’s tenure. This, however, is the type of thing that could cause an unnecessary rift. They’ve been so good in propping up Alex and standing behind him. As I said in the prior thread, I would not question the staff if they truly felt Kaepernick was ready, but my gut says that they may still go back to Smith for a variety of reasons. Smith has shown he is very capable. More than just a Corolla. He may not have the ‘Ferrari’ upside of Kaepernick, but you don’t get that New Orleans performance out of a standard economy vehicle. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, but I would like it to play out at the team level. I don’t believe it’s the media’s job to force a play/answer. It may be the job to report on the development, but that’s different.

    3) Another point that should not be lost in the success of Colin Kaepernick yesterday is that he was never seriously tested. The 49ers defense made the Bears rather pedestrian offense look absolutely pathetic. (note: Cutler was putting up less yards per game than Smith through 8 games – Smith only fell behind because he played only one half of football last game). Jason Campbell’s inability to get anything going helped, as did the two costly TO. The special teams also played exceptionally well, keeping Devin Hester to -1 yards on 3 punt returns and decisively winning the field position battle because of it. Again, that shouldn’t take away from Kaepernick’s performance, but do you not think Smith could have won that game handily, as well, given how the rest of the team played?

    Bottom line, I am very glad to see that Kaepernick is a capable and viable QB. The future for the 49ers looks very bright. If that future starts now, great. But I’m going to let the experts, who have shown they understand how to develop these players, make that decision.

    November 20th, 2012 11:29 am

  12. glenellen

    You are certainly excited about Kaep here. All 49er fans should be. The future is very bright. Again, the future is very bright for the 49ers. Alex (if healthy) will start in New Orleans. He has won 6 games this year and won a playoff game last year, right ?

    Kaep will be the starter here eventually, that is a given. They only signed Alex to a 2 yr contract. When my children used to get too excited I would say ” calm down your bunnies”.

    November 20th, 2012 11:51 am

  13. Jason Ford

    Im pretty sure on what would be a short week for alex and Kaep playing well; Kaep should get one more chance to seal the deal. If Kaep wins in New Orleans and he plays good. All of us have to get behind Kaep because this kid is the real deal.

    November 20th, 2012 12:32 pm

  14. Hoferfan67

    LC, I always enjoy your reads. What I don’t understand is why you discount AS in a disparaging way while elevating CK? AS is 19-5 since playing for JH, he won in the playoffs last year over a top seeded Saints team by throwing the best pass of his life, during what the ESPYs voted the best sports game of the year, and has led this current team to 6-2 record prior to going down with a concussion. He also is in most of the top 5 QB leader categories this year, with the exception of the total passing yards. He deserves better. Why not just focus on the one outstanding game and win by CK last night (I favor Ratto’s take on last nights game)?

    BTW, I’ve read that BW prefers the performer. The one that is consistent and dependable in the way they perform. After one game, there is no metric that can gauge if CK should be the immediate starter with 6 games left in the season. Fortunately, the 9ers have a good dilemma to work through.

    Good day.

    November 20th, 2012 12:42 pm

  15. Eric Janssen

    On Lowell’s 3rd thought:
    Please lets leave this alone. He said he was sorry. Let’s not get into why he said it as it might not be something you want to know. If Jung was to look at it,for instance, it might get into something like a childhood experience with a bad Merlot. And the possibility that Lowell has an adult fear of drinking any Merlot. Why he enjoy’s a cab instead. Even though his palate could not have expected to be mature enough to discern a good from bad merlot at such a tender young age. Then we’d have to go into the whole region/appalacian(sp?) controversy which would take us completely out of the football thing. So it’s best to leave it all alone and just enjoy his awesome writing. IMHO.

    November 20th, 2012 1:05 pm

  16. Brandon Conway

    Jason – Alex has been clutch on several occasions. My point is that we average out stats over the long term for a reason – they help tell the story. All good QBs have bad games. There are no exceptions.

    Kommon – True, but all those former starters were lost for the season with injuries, IIRC. Smith isn’t lost for the season due to injury at this point. Benching a vet starter for non-injury reasons in a playoff run for a 2nd year QB who has started one game 11 games into a winning season? Can’t recall that ever happening.

    November 20th, 2012 1:11 pm

  17. Alex

    I think we should tip our hat to Harbaugh here for developing Kaepernick, and drafting him in the first place.

    If Kaepernick pans out the way he’s shown he can, that 2011 draft class of the 49ers might go down as the best ever.

    November 20th, 2012 1:21 pm

  18. Stan

    On the GAME they got into the black QB and White QB stereotypes. But CK and Smith have the same face by a different mother look to me.
    Whats my point? None.

    November 20th, 2012 1:33 pm

  19. The Seth

    He’s keeping the Saints guessing and forcing them to game plan for both quarterbacks, plain and simple. I would imagine what’s said behind closed doors in the 49ers locker room is much different than what’s said at the press conferences.

    November 20th, 2012 2:10 pm

  20. Mr.sdkfpjdf

    Thank you brandon, not only for your use of reason and logic, but for also pointing out Lowell’s horrible bias against Smith, and his lack of any mental compacity to see what Smith can accomplish.

    Cohn views could be attributed to alot of fans at the moment, and wrongly so.

    November 20th, 2012 2:24 pm

  21. Dr. Feelgood

    I have not given up on Alex, but CK should get the start in New Orleans, here’s why:
    How did we grade the 49ers effort Giants, Vikings and Rams? How did we grade the effort against the Bills, Jets and Bears? The defeats were so totally depressing that the season seemed in peril. The victories seemed to re-establish the team as a sure Super bowl contender. Which team is the 49ers?
    My point is that not much can be truly determined by one game (we know this, but continue to fall into the same trap). So, yes, I feel very optimistic TODAY about the IDEA of CK as the next 49er super QB, but I remember how we felt toward Alex after the New Orleans game last year so will exercise restraint in all CK hyperbole.
    So roll the dice and start Colin against a very, very quality team, in that teams stadium, and let’s see how he handles that. The start in N.O. will speak volumes and provide solid direction on how to move forward at QB.

    November 20th, 2012 2:48 pm

  22. CohnZohn

    Hoferfan67, I never have been sold on Smith as the Niners’ starting qb — too cautious, not athletic enough, can’t perform in the red zone. I know these points get debated, but I write what I feel. I’m paid to do that.

    November 20th, 2012 2:59 pm

  23. CohnZohn

    Thanks, Eric — truth is I really don’t like Merlot. It may have something to do with that day in Brooklyn long long ago when . . . .

    November 20th, 2012 3:02 pm

  24. Dr. Feelgood

    Can we officially title the current QB drama “The Controversy”?
    Another angle on The Controversy- JH must be coming out of his skin. He desperately desires opening the playbook to the chapters titled “Absolute Killler Pass Plays” and “Win By Passing Deep”, amongst others. With Alex at the helm, those pages are crisp and new, with no sweat stain or drops of Gatorade on them (the chapters on Running Game are tattered and dog-eared).
    JH yearns to open up the offense, to show the world the true brilliance of his product. CK is his key to unlocking the missing chapters.

    November 20th, 2012 3:32 pm

  25. Kommon Senze

    Brandon, I’ll quote what you said and what I responded to, as it’s different from your latest point in rebuttal:

    ” Yes, a starter can lose a job to injury, but the only times a starting QB has had that happen and the team won the Superbowl was when it was VERY early in the season and the hurt QB was out for several weeks. ”

    As you can see, you said the ONLY times a starting QB has lost a job to injury were when it was VERY (your emphasis) early in the season. That simply wasn’t factually correct. Jay Schroeder came back in 1987, but he famously lost a lot of his stature with teammates because of how he treated Doug Williams when Doug was the backup. Doug retained the starting role and led them to a Super Bowl.

    Now, to be fair, Dan Pastorini broke his leg and was basically done for the season. Phil Simms broke his foot, and was out for the playoffs. Either way, though, the point is, it was not too late in the year to have a QB switch.

    Could there be a divided locker room? Potentially, but I don’t think either QB is such that they will try to detract from the other if they are winning. The bigger issue which you seemed to be making was if they can adjust to the new QB and make that switch. I think it’s quite possible. I’m just not 100% certain that Kaepernick is fully ready. He looked great, but it was 1 game. Troy Smith looked great for 1 game. Many QBs have looked great for 1 game.

    Now, I do think Kaepernick has fully staked his claim to the future, and that future appears to be much closer than some predicted. How close is what the coaching staff will need to decide. I don’t think it would be a mistake for them to go with Alex Smith, if that’s what they felt gave them the best chance to succeed. If Colin is the one that they feel gives them that best chance, then they’ll make that call. I don’t doubt, based on how Harbaugh has conducted his affairs, that he’s afraid to make the call for Colin. I just don’t know if he and the rest of his staff have actually reached that decision.

    November 20th, 2012 4:20 pm

  26. Jumbo Shrimp

    Just saw you on the program. Could have told Ann Killion that Colin responds better to adversity than Alex does. C’mon man!!!

    November 20th, 2012 5:28 pm

  27. Giants Fan

    Will see what happens when Kap’s “guts” results in multiple Ints…the throw in question to Davis was into tight, double, maybe triple coverage…is that a throw that you make most of the time? I don’t know…maybe it’s an elite throw and he can get away with it. But to say Alex doesn’t throw to Davis is ridiculous…Who threw all the TD’s to Davis the last few seasons? Who threw the long TD to Davis vs. the Giants in the Championship game? Who threw the game winning TD to Davis against the Saints?

    November 20th, 2012 5:33 pm

  28. Johnc

    According to ESPN Smith is the number 3 passer in the league when he is not under pressure.
    He ranks number 21 in first down conversions…
    His completion rating is high because he throws high percentage dink and dunks.
    How did he do last year vs. Giants in playoffs?

    November 20th, 2012 6:21 pm

  29. NeverWrong

    What controversy? It’s clear who should start against New Orleans.

    November 20th, 2012 7:10 pm

  30. Jason

    @ Giants fan,

    With alex as our QB we’ll go to playoffs but we wont go to the superbowl because when its time to throw your receivers open,throw the deep ball,escape pressure alex will fail again,only this time he wont have kyle williams take the blame for his short comings. Kaep is the future and the future is now.

    November 21st, 2012 6:05 am

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