Here is  my Thursday column about Jim Harbaugh naming Colin Kaepernick his permanent/temporary starting quarterback:

It’s tough to make up your mind. Just ask Jim Harbaugh, who made up his mind about his quarterbacks and reluctantly shared his mind with the media on Wednesday in one the most anticipated, most dramatic 49ers’ news conferences I can recall. There may have been more dramatic ones I don’t know about — but I’ve been covering the 49ers for only 33 years.

The subject of the Harbaugh mind brings us to the two relevant questions, the only relevant questions.

To read the full column, please click here.

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  1. Stan

    Why isn’t the press given a microphone to ask questions? I watch..and all I can see is Harbaugh’s mouth agape,eyes bulging,tongue darting side to side like some serpent…and then he answers the unheard question to what looks like thin air on TV.
    I mean,it must be on purpose..as Jim answers shouted questions and then pretends like he didn’t hear the main part of that question. A built in excuse to avoid the answer.
    The media should bring in their own Karaoke or even a MR. Microphone (hey, good lookin!) from ’75 if the niners are too broke to provide sound.

    November 28th, 2012 6:48 pm

  2. Stan

    Seriously,its just so basic. Give the question asker a mike. Why the shouting and the like? You would think Comcast would figure that out.

    November 28th, 2012 7:19 pm

  3. Johnc

    I did not see the presser, but it sounds like Harbaugh became a characature of himself. You description of his antics sounded like a SNL skit of a Harbaugh press conference.

    “Harbaugh always will go with the better player — feelings and loyalty never factor in with him. So, he chose Kaepernick for all the right reasons”

    Ok…When you say feelings and loyalty never factor in with him..it sounds like you could also be describing Bill Walsh. I think it is fair to say about both these men expressed feelings of loyalty for their players, but they have to make hard decisions for the best interests of the team. The NFL is a business and best players should play.

    NFL stands for “Not for Long”— Jerry Glanville.

    November 28th, 2012 8:10 pm

  4. Winston Wolf

    I’m pretty sure all this waffling is to keep Alex’s confidence up in case he has to be called upon.

    November 28th, 2012 8:15 pm

  5. Fudgehammer

    Great column, and as much as I agree with the decision, I also agree that Harbaugh could have handled it better. But hey, Bill Walsh, one of the greatest coaches ever, didn’t handle the Montana-Young controversy that well in ’88, and alienated for a time the franchise’s greatest player. And Tom Landry — another all-time legend — actually had Staubach and Morton coming in to the game on alternating plays one season, and he had been a head coach in the NFL for over a decade at that point. And Chuck Noll, another legend, couldn’t decide between Bradshaw and Joe Gilliam (a nice man who I met when I worked for the USFL years ago), so these decisions are tough and sometimes they get handled in a clumsy way by some very fine coaches. It happens. The best part, however, is that Harbaugh made the right call. That’s what matters most. This is Kap’s team and was always meant to be from the time he was drafted. I’m so surprised that fans are shocked about this change — did they think Harbaugh burned a second-round pick to have Kap standing around on the sidelines for the next five years? He was the prince-in-waiting and the waiting is over!

    November 28th, 2012 9:03 pm

  6. Arizona Niner Fan

    If you have access to the archives of the ESPN Radio show called “The Herd’ Check out this mornings opening comments by the host Colin Cowherd. He offered some interesting and perhaps non-conventional views of Coach Harbaugh. In some ways he offers his insight into why Harbaugh does what he does and the way in which he does it. I am not saying it would change your views but it may be interesting to see how other professional journalists react to Harbaugh and his non conventional approaches.

    November 28th, 2012 9:09 pm

  7. dharris

    I hate not being able to hear the questions when I watch. You guys should just bring a megaphone…
    But I think harbaugh simply refuses to divulge more info than he absolutely has to. Maybe he wants to keep teams guessing as to what his team may do? May seem trivial to most but it seems like it’s strategic to him

    November 28th, 2012 9:20 pm

  8. jason

    Harbaugh please!! Everyone knows Kap has supplanted Smith as the starter, so just say it and be done with it. You’re not doing Smith any favors with all this tortured contrived drama. Even Smith knows he’s lost the job. Do you have to go thru this every week?

    November 28th, 2012 9:20 pm

  9. RednGold1

    The first relevant question is OK to ask. An important question that you answer. Coach’s decision greatly impacts the game.
    The second relevant question doesn’t hold water. The answer to the second question does not matter. Coach’s bedside manner or lack there of has insignificant or no impact on the game.
    No need to ask the second question except that it is spicey.

    November 28th, 2012 9:31 pm

  10. DougA

    Lowell, you have captured Harbaugh’s comically evasive interview manner well. Is he as torn as he appears to be? He is just giving us gobble gobble jive turkey twisting Alex in the wind, and Alex has to stand there and take it. He deserves better. How about, “we had a chance to see Colin under game conditions due to Alex’s injury, and we liked the pace that Colin brought to the offense. For now, we are staying with Colin, but things may change and it is always good to know that we have an excellent quarterback in Alex if things do.”

    Now, next question?

    November 28th, 2012 9:39 pm

  11. SFFranciscan

    Harbaugh knows he’s on the hook here. Why is that so hard to see…or admit? He may be awkward about the situation with Smith, but it’s his reputation that’s on the line now. And it’s not at all clear that Kaepernick will prove him right. You are talking about a small school QB who was not good enough to come out before his senior year (he’s 25 now, three years younger than Alex Smith, an 8 year vet) and he has only played two full NFL games.

    January playoff games are entirely different. Steve Young folded under such pressure for years. If Kaepernick gets this team to the NFC Championship or beyond, good decision. If not, this is a big mistake.

    It’s a gutsy call, unlike any gamble I can remember in the NFL for decades, but to believe Kaepernick is a sure thing because of two games in November? That’s just wishful thinking.

    One other point: Colin Kaepernick, once the shock of the switch wears off, is under enormous pressure, more pressure than I can ever remember for a “rookie” QB in the NFL.

    Harbaugh better hope he’s right…but not now…in January. You all do remember how good Alex Smith was in January? And this revisionist history that Smith was somehow bad last year against the Giants is nonsense. Watch the tape again. He had that game won before the two special team fumbles. Amazing how so many choose to ignore that fact.

    So the bar is now set for Harbaugh and his kid. It’s a great story, it may well go horribly wrong, though if Kaepernick pulls this off, the success will be remarkable. Just don’t kid yourself that’s it’s anything but a longshot.

    November 28th, 2012 10:09 pm

  12. Neal

    Did not know Kaep was Jewish, as you called him the chosen one anyway Lowell, he picked the best player and I give him props for that. I guess from a former column you did, he looks at you as the enemy. He will never be warm and fuzzy.

    November 28th, 2012 10:46 pm

  13. Jumbo Shrimp

    You’re overestimating the importance of sports media. Sorry to say it. Times have changed since the Niners glory years, with the emergence of technology that creates the 24-hr news cycle.

    It’s like the discussion of the economy. There’s the 1%, like you, Cohn/Ratto/Kawakami/Cowherd, and there’s the 99%, Dilfer/HearhEvans/StephenA. It’s the 99% that runs it for the 1%.

    Harbaugh, I believe, decides to act in a vacuum that includes only himself, his coaches, and his players. In this vacuum, there is but a single reason for this controversy: Kaepernick so far exceeded Harbaugh’s expectations, but met his hopes, that within the vacuum, the choice was immediate and clear. So, within the vacuum, Kaepernick himself caused the switch, and there was no controversy.

    The vacuum is related to the media. By force if its sheer size and monotonous droning, the 99% of the sports media, the clamoring for anything to talk about, the need to fill airwaves, gives rise to Harbaugh’s …

    November 28th, 2012 11:11 pm

  14. Loneraider78

    You can’t compare baseball coaches to football coaches. That’s like comparing a Congressman to a General.

    You don’t spend a week preparing in baseball.

    I think you expect the same from Harbaugh that you have received from the other coaches you’ve covered in thirty-three years. But he’s not like them. He was a player remember? Seeing the pattern here? Singletary was a nutjob at pressers too. Coaches that were once players are wired different. They don’t understand the “business side, people side” you speak of.

    “The game is won in the trenches, I don’t have time for this crap” is really what he wants to say.

    I think you should just accept it.

    November 28th, 2012 11:23 pm

  15. Tommy CostaRica

    Lowell I’m surprised that you or anyone else here hasn’t mentioned the “T” word yet??? I would be looking to trade Smith right away. I’m wondering what we could get for him? I don’t think his value would be that high, but I’d take a first rounder for him in a flash!

    November 29th, 2012 5:16 am

  16. Jack Orion

    Harbaugh’s phony tough guy routine isn’t holding up well. “All about the team” nonsense doesn’t fly when you bench top-performing starters.

    Smith should demand a trade. Can’t believe his terrible agents haven’t demanded a trade in the press.

    November 29th, 2012 6:47 am

  17. Boz


    You mention that Harbaugh is stringing Alex Smith along. That is only if you assume that what he has told Alex, Colin, and the team is the same as what he is saying to the media.

    I would assume it isn’t.

    Also, it’s interesting that Colin seems to be taking on the Harbaugh interview style just like Alex was lambasted for doing when he and Harbaugh first began working together.

    November 29th, 2012 7:17 am

  18. Dennis

    Let me start by saying that I can’t believe you were at the same press conference I watched. I thought Harbaugh did just fine, wasn’t rude and didn’t need to take lessons from anyone on how to conduct a press conference. His press conferences are must see TV because he is refreshingly different. I find Bochy to be polite and boring. Let me state it this way: I like watching Harbaugh’s press conferences for the same reason I like reading your columns – neither of you are going to be polite and boring.

    Now, for the decision on starting Kaepernick: the whole premise of your column, aside from critiquing Harbaugh’s style with the press, is that Harbaugh has decided that Kaepernick is the sole starting quarterback of the 49ers. But what if Harbaugh hasn’t decided that? What if he is telling you the truth about what he is thinking? It seems to me that you have not given that possibility much thought. Of course, if you did, if you just opined on what your heard as opposed to what you thought you heard or wanted to hear, your column might run the risk of being polite and boring.

    November 29th, 2012 7:51 am

  19. Jim Bancroft

    Stan, I loved your serpent comment.

    I’m not a big fan of A. Smith (my comments on this blog after the 49ers lost the NFC championship game can attest) but I’m not convinced Kaepernick is the answer. He literally sprung onto the league two weeks ago and no one’s had a chance to gameplan for him. Once-around-the-league syndrome, like with new baseball pitchers?

    He’s only 3 years younger than Smith, which is amazing since Alex has been around forever. And that interception vs New Orleans on the muffed snap…that was a terrible decision. How many others are waiting in the wings when the heat comes on, as it will in Dec and January? I do hope I’m wrong.

    Also, Harbaugh has zero goodwill in the press. Think that doesn’t matter? If the team goes through a slump (think Bill Walsh 1985-1987) he’ll get the Jeff Tedford treatment times ten and be out of a job.

    November 29th, 2012 9:17 am

  20. Steve

    The manner in which Harbaugh deals with the media reminds me of Bill Belichick. Last time I checked Belichick had a pretty good record of success.

    November 29th, 2012 10:56 am

  21. Bob In Portland

    T. CostRica: Isn’t the trade deadline passed? Plus, Alex Smith was notorious for taking awhile to absorb new playbooks. His value to another team to step in and take over the reins would be minimal at this point in the season.

    After the season he’s got all that bonus money coming up in the Spring, so I doubt that he’ll be resigned. I’ll be interested in seeing where he ends up, but I don’t think he will bring back anything to the Niners in a trade.

    November 29th, 2012 11:38 am

  22. CohnZohn

    Steve, Does that mean Harbaugh will be as successful as Belichick?

    November 29th, 2012 12:08 pm

  23. Raffaele

    I disagree.

    It was not difficult for Harbaugh to make his decision. I would guess he made it last Sunday. But Harbaugh loves to obfuscate. That’s part of his personality.

    Possible he pretended to dither to confuse the Rams. Maybe he did it to make life less painful for Alex Smith. Most likely he did it because he hates the media and takes pleasure in watching the media folks squirm and carry on with no real information.

    No, it wasn’t a tough decision for the coach. But playing with the media folks, and fencing them verbally, is his entertainment. Dr. Cohn, don’t buy into that game.

    November 29th, 2012 1:48 pm

  24. Dave T

    I can think of two other situations where Head Coaches had to make a decision, went with it and stuck with it and had success. The key for Harbaugh will be to simply go with it and stay with it.

    Example 1: Bellicheck names Tom Brady (who I always thought was a epic steal as a 6th round pick) as starter, even after Drew Bledsoe, their all-pro QB, who had taken them to a Super Bowl returned to health. Further, if you recall, Bledsoe had to come into the AFC Championship game that year and lead the Patriots to victory over the Steelers, in Pittsburgh. Only to have Brady named as the Super Bowl starter and the rest is history as they say. Oh, and by the way, the Pats had just signed Beldsoe to a 10 year deal that March.

    Second is the Pittsburgh Steelers and Coach Bill Cowher. In 2004, they drafted Ben Roethliseberger (think what you want of him, he wins, period) and he started as the #3 QB on the depth chart in camp. By the third game, injuries and ineffectiveness of Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch forced him to finish the game. He started the next game and went 13-0 for the remainder of the season, even though Maddox returned to health and had been very successful the prior two seasons.

    Now do I think that Harbaugh and Kaepnerick are as good as Bellicheck, Cowher, Brady and Roethlisberger? No, not yet. But there is some potential there. And the potential is there for sure. The lesson here is simply if you think that your replacement is “THE GUY”, then you go with them, and get all in behind them. Cowher prior to that time waffled amongst way too many QB’s and did not achieve his greatest success until he went with and stayed with Roethlisberger. The fact that the Niners can even be mentioned in this conversation says something. The Patriots and Steelers were definitively the big kids on the block from the 1994-95 season to the 2011-12 season. In the 18 AFC Championship games, the Steelers or Patriots played in 8 and 7 of them respectively, only playing against each other twice. In other words, 13 of those 18 (72%) of them had one or the other playing for the title. Oh, and the results in the Super Bowl in that time frame amongst those two teams? Nine Super Bowl appearances (50% of games played), five wins (28% of games) total. Since Brady and Roethlisberger took over as starters, 8 apearances out of 11 Super Bowls played (73%) and 5 wins (45%). As I said, time will tell, but a pretty good measuring stick.

    November 29th, 2012 2:03 pm

  25. SFFranciscan

    Sorry, but Bledsoe was not an All-Pro by then; in fact, he was playing poorly.

    Not the case here, in spite of the yahoos pretending Smith is a hack.

    Do you think they watched the Saints game? The Packers game at Lambeau?

    November 29th, 2012 2:37 pm

  26. Steve


    Only time will tell. Belichick endured some slumps along the way. I suspect both Harbaugh and Belichick share an extreme aversion to answering questions from the press, perhaps because they can’t think on their feet outside the realm of football strategy. The difference is (and here’s where it gets weird) that Belichick talks little and says nothing, while Harbaugh talks a lot and says nothing. However, I’ve seen them both in a more relaxed setting and they actually come across somewhat personable. At any rate, very interesting article about the process.

    November 29th, 2012 4:33 pm

  27. mbabco

    Well, it should be interesting. I do have a concern about Kaepernick & interceptions. The one he threw in the New Orleans game was a throw he should not have made. And Randy Moss saved him from that second interception by mugging the receiver (should have been called for offensive pass interference). Take away those two interceptions for touchdowns and you get a score of 17 – 21, not 31-21. And did the 49er’s score after the almost interception that Moss prevented? You could argue that just like with the previous QB the defense bailed out Kaepernick. As Steve says, only time will tell.

    November 30th, 2012 12:56 pm

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