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The fact that Jim Harbaugh dumped Alex Smith — yes dumped — so unceremoniously after an injury shows what he really thinks about Smith and what he always thought. I can’t say I disagree.

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42 Comments

  1. Jumbo Shrimp

    Lowell

    You might be right, but I think it says a lot more about what Harbaugh thinks of Colin, both now and into the future.

    There’s no evidence that Colin is not ALREADY a top-flight NFL quarterback. In fact, there is evidence that he might be in the discussion of Top-5, if you look at all his measurables, intangibles, brief success, attitude, and work ethic.

    November 29th, 2012 1:56 pm

  2. Rob

    Bill Walsh would have handled this so much differently. Walsh understood and respected the important role of the media and worked it as well as anyone I’ve seen in sports. Harbaugh, on the other hand… Well we know what he is.

    November 29th, 2012 2:07 pm

  3. Michael

    Jim is no dummy. 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls have been won by: Tom Brady, Payton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rogers, Eli Manning, and Big Ben.

    I think Harbaugh sees everything in Kaepernick physical skills that he and Alex Smith didn’t have: Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Kaep has all the tools Jim wish he had during his playing career.

    November 29th, 2012 2:18 pm

  4. Michael

    Rob – Really? He handled the Montana vs. Young “much differently” (You are clearly implying better)? Then why was there such a divided locker room and fan base over a period of years/seasons not just a few weeks?

    November 29th, 2012 2:22 pm

  5. George

    How do you ceremoniously bench a starter who hasn’t screwed up? It’s not possible, in my opinion. Harbaugh’s problem was that, against the Bears, Kaepernick played in such a commanding fashion — made the offense so commanding — that it was Harbaugh’s duty to bench Smith. And because the season is so short and every game counts so much, the benching had to be done right away. That’s football, and that’s life. Let’s move on, please.

    November 29th, 2012 2:37 pm

  6. George

    That’s true what Michael just wrote about Bill Walsh and Montana/Young. That really became ugly and unsettling. Assuming Kaepernick continues to win, in a few games, this will all be forgotten.

    November 29th, 2012 2:41 pm

  7. Stan

    When you take out the starter of a year that got you to the conference finals for a guy in his second year in the league? THAT’S a statement that tromps all others made in the “Alex is my man” tone.
    But,he did set himself up for that egg salad on he and Alex. I still say..after his first losing streak,he’s going to do a Singletaryish move and challenge a writer to a fight.
    And that last presscon..what was it? ten minutes?..in and out.

    November 29th, 2012 2:43 pm

  8. Sean Nakamura

    The fact that you are not Jim Harbaugh, means you do not really know what “Jim” thinks. So stop trying to be a mind reader, and just report the sports.

    November 29th, 2012 2:44 pm

  9. dharte

    So one last point and then Kaepernick will be the hero or the goat: Alex Smith has beaten and out-played both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in the last ten months. (Not the 49er defense-they were bad against Brees in particular–Alex Smith.) He’s also “bigger and faster” than Rodgers, Brees, Eli Manning and Tom Brady, but then this isn’t a track meet we’re talking about.

    Smith is seen as a top-flight QB now by a number of experts. So he needs to get out of here, slip the Nolan/Singletary nonsense, and play. The fact that he’s still only three years older than Kaepernick is a remarkable fact. We’ll see if the 25-year-old “rookie” is a “Top 5 Talent”.

    And if your boy Kaepernick fails, Lowell, I’ll look forward to your analysis of what just happened. There isn’t a story to compare with it in NFL history, I’d argue.

    November 29th, 2012 2:53 pm

  10. Dennis

    “The fact that Jim Harbaugh dumped Alex Smith — yes dumped — so unceremoniously after an injury shows what he really thinks about Smith and what he always thought.”

    Surely you are not suggesting that Harbaugh always thought that Kaepernick was better than Smith? That doesn’t make any sense. He may have thought that Alex wasn’t the best quarterback in the league, but at the same time was the best quarterback on the 49ers thus giving them the best chance to win. Did he want to upgrade the quarterback position? Absolutely. But name me a position on the team (including quarterback) he wouldn’t want to upgrade if given the opportunity. So I am at a loss as to what your point is and why you are making it. He would dump Kaepernick in an instant minute for someone better if they became available to him.

    November 29th, 2012 3:20 pm

  11. Brandon Conway

    The fact that he started him for a year and a half says more about how he feels about Smith then this “dumping”.

    Replacing Smith with Kaepernick is more about what Harbaugh feels positively about Kaepernick than what he does negatively about Smith.

    In other words: you’re projecting your own dislike for Smith onto the situation, Lowell. If Harbaugh didn’t like Smith as a QB he would have never been brought back, a la Troy Smith.

    November 29th, 2012 3:21 pm

  12. Streetglide

    One thing to rub salt into the wounds Lowell-san, but the smirk doesn’t become you…

    November 29th, 2012 3:22 pm

  13. KauaiRobert

    Winning cures all.
    .
    .
    .
    *ALOHA*

    November 29th, 2012 4:19 pm

  14. Steve

    Rob: I have to agree with Michael. Walsh was very cutthroat when it involved personnel. Lowell, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Walsh coined the phrase “Better to get rid of someone one year too early than one year too late.”

    November 29th, 2012 4:39 pm

  15. Kommon Senze

    Michael..

    Bill Walsh was gone as coach by the end of the 1988 season (January 1989 being his last time as coach). You do realize there were two full-seasons beyond when he left that Montana was still the starting QB for the 49ers, right? I don’t think anyone was clamoring that Young should be the starter as of the end of Bill’s reign, when Montana had led the 49ers to their 3rd Super Bowl title (20-16 over Cincinnati). Yes, he did have that great game against Minnesota where he had that famous, stumbling TD run, but the real fan controversy began a couple years later.

    When Montana missed the builk of the 1991 season, and Young filled in admirably as the primary starter, that sealed the deal for Montana. That’s when that debate was at it’s peak, and Walsh was long gone from the head coaching post.

    ……

    As for Harbaugh’s ‘opinion’ of Smith… Lowell, you’re better than that. I don’t think this his opinion of Smith is as narrow or cut-throat as you imply. I do think he is a fierce competitor, and I do think he drafted Kaepernick with the intent to mold him into a QB ready to eventually take the reigns.

    However, I do think he genuinely respects Smith and would have been content to ride out this year with Smith had he not been injured. Matt Barrows and Kevin Lynch both have said that they feel Harbaugh believed they could win the Super Bowl with Smith, and I agree.

    That said, I think he recognizes that Kaepernick increases those odds, potentially, because of his ability to extend plays and improvise in ways Smith either cannot or is reluctant, too. In theory, Kaepernick provides a greater margin for error because of his ability to make plays and generate big plays. But his opportunity wasn’t crafted. It was circumstantial. Unfortunately for Smith, the circumstance was his injury.

    November 29th, 2012 5:31 pm

  16. Albert Park

    Lowell, you did all you could to encourage the dumping of Alex, so, please, don’t be so critical. We know you don’t like Harbaugh; give him a break.

    November 29th, 2012 6:47 pm

  17. Von Dahlk

    I think Harbaugh really wants to get foot ball job done and just isn’t a social guy. We all have faults. If he’s putting all his effort into winning games and if the guys on the team see that, then they’ll play just as hard as they have beene. Pretty sure they want to focus on winning as well. Everybody seems to be worrying about the business part of football… Could invite Singletary back? I’m thankful for Jim, he didn’t bother me at all, been a 9er fan since I can remember ;) Niners baby!!

    November 29th, 2012 6:48 pm

  18. CohnZohn

    Kaepernick is not my “boy,” but Smith seems to be yours.

    November 29th, 2012 6:51 pm

  19. Von Dahlk

    Smith has been sculpted to his prime, which is Kaeps starting point at the least. Wolf found his spot in his new pack!

    November 29th, 2012 7:12 pm

  20. CohnZohn

    Dennis, Do you ever not argue? Are you a happy person, fulfilled? Do you have close friends? Name three things you do in a day that bring you joy.

    November 29th, 2012 7:37 pm

  21. CohnZohn

    Kommon Senze, I believe — this is my belief here — Harbaugh was painfully aware of Smith’s many limitations and leaped at the opportunity to remove him for Kaepernick.

    November 29th, 2012 7:38 pm

  22. dharte

    Please. You’re gushing about a small school QB who was not good enough to come out until he was 24, and he has played two full games. You may be right. Harbaugh is a remarkable coach.

    But the shots at Alex Smith that you clearly enjoy are outrageous, given how well the kid has played in the last two seasons, and I suspect you know that.

    Steve Young has been as interesting observer: he clearly thinks Harbaugh has made a mistake and that Smith has gotten screwed here, but it’s Harbaugh’s team.

    That’s fine. Just don’t ignore the facts: as Young said tonight, that fantastic performance against the Saints and Drew brees was real, the 14 point lead over the Giants in the NFC championship happened, and the victories over Rodgers at Lambeau, the 600 yards of offense (a 49er all-time record) against the Bills, the 18 for 19 game (another 49er record)–all of it speaks to the kid’s talent.

    So don’t trash him (“Smith’s 4 Stinkers” etc.) and expect no one to point out the obvious. The kid can play. And he has shown unbelievable toughness and character in his time with the 49ers

    For me the bottom line is that Harbaugh now has to make the Super Bowl. If not, he’s botched this decision badly.

    November 29th, 2012 7:47 pm

  23. CohnZohn

    dharte, You vastly overrate Smith. Are you related to him? I’m curious why you use an usf email address.

    November 29th, 2012 8:32 pm

  24. Tiburon Dave

    Tuned into bits and pieces of “North Dallas Forty” tonight…Football was a filthy business in Peter Gent’s day and I’m convinced it’s far worse today…albeit with more commas and zeroes…

    What disturbs me is the way that Coach Harbaugh openly courted alex smith for more than a year…golf buddies for heavens sake…the superlative compliments…all the while knowing he’d cut his legs out at the first opportunity…

    Coach Harbaugh may be a good coach but he’s lacking in basic humanity…

    November 29th, 2012 8:45 pm

  25. dharte

    You know why I use this address, but that’s beside the point.

    So I “vastly” overrate Smith? Facts are stubborn things, Lowell. Beating Rodgers, and clearly outplaying him at Lambeau, is not an illusion; it happened. Outplaying Brees under enormous pressure in the playoffs happened…we were both there watching at Candlestick, and I suspect you were as impressed as I was. The records the kid set this year, all-time 49er records (Albert, Tittle, Brodie, Montana, Young), are real. That was Young’s main point tonight on KNBR, and he said it very well.

    So if you don’t like the player, just say so. But don’t pretend you’re privy to some secret knowledge that the rest of us are missing. The people who have spoken up for Smith and questioned Harbaugh’s decision are worth noting: Young, Aikman, Warner, Marino, Esiason, not to mention Peter King and a number of NFL writers. They all respect Harbaugh, they all acknowledge how well Kaepernick played against the Bears, and to a lesser extent the Saints, but again, and as Young emphasized tonight, Kaepernick was chosen after a game and a half. That’s astounding given the facts of the last two seasons.

    To trash Smith as a way of backing Harbaugh’s decision is simply dishonest, Lowell. You know the game. Smith isn’t completing 70% of his passes this year with mirrors; the 104 QB rating is excellent, and a fact.

    To listen to you, it’s 2008 and Nolan and Singletary are prowling the sidelines. That Alex Smith, the one you disdain, was a product of horrific coaching. Those two men were clueless about offensive football, though we can both agree their football teams were very offensive, especially if you were paying for the tickets.

    Here’s hoping the kid gets out with a new head coach like Greg Roman and finds a team and a city that appreciates him. God knows that never happened here.

    November 29th, 2012 9:02 pm

  26. CohnZohn

    dharte, so are you saying Harbaugh made a mistake, doesn’t understand what he’s doing? Just what are you saying? I don’t think he made a mistake. You quote people who spoke up for Smith, almost all QBs, by the way. Not everyone feels that way.

    November 29th, 2012 9:15 pm

  27. Kommon Senze

    Lowell, that’s possible. Certainly one could argue that the pursuit of Peyton Manning was the sign that, even though Alex had performed admirably in the playoffs, he was looking for a way out from under Alex. I find that perspective to be colored heavily by a bias that believes Harbaugh is cold-blooded and manipulative, etc.

    Certainly, as someone who spends a lot of time covering him, you may see things that others don’t, but I also think it’s equally possible that you might be manufacturing motives precisely because you’re a little too close to the subject at hand.

    Is it not possible that Harbaugh does believe in Alex, but also holds the belief that if he can get better, he should? If someone loves their job, does it mean they can’t also be intrigued by an opportunity to go after their dream occupation? I love the car that I recently bought, but if I somehow was able to afford the Anderson Aston Martin DBS from the 2006 Bond movie, Casino Royale.. well.. you get the picture.

    Ralph Barbieri used to always say “two things can be equally true,” and, in this instance, I believe that’s the case. I don’t think Harbaugh was just waiting for any excuse to get out from under Smith. You and Grant have been the most fiery proponents of that angle, but the vast majority of other writers who have covered the story have not felt that way. They aren’t Alex Smith apologists, but, objectively, I think they would agree that, had Smith not been injured, Harbaugh would have ridden Smith through the playoffs.

    Did he feel Smith had limitations? Yes. As I said before, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that he does have some. But I don’t think it was to the point of buyer’s remorse, which is how you seem to characterize it.

    I could be wrong, but that’s how I see it.

    November 29th, 2012 9:45 pm

  28. mendozaline

    Lowell, in your apology after the Giants proved to be not so dead you wrote ” I’ve been wrong millions of times in the past and expect to be wrong a million more.”
    Let’s see what the future brings for the 49ers and we will find out if your expectation is down to 999,999.
    This is much more fun than when the Giants were 0-2 with 3 in Cincinnati.

    November 29th, 2012 10:08 pm

  29. dharte

    The fact that you (and Harbaugh) don’t think this decision is a mistake is not the point. What Young, Warner, Aikman and others have said, and what I agree with, is that Harbaugh has to win this year for the decision to make any sense. Kaepernick could have been installed as the starter next season. But to “dump” Smith–your words, and of course you’re right–with five games left in the season when Smith is playing very well and is healthy is unprecedented.

    Obviously I believe Smith deserved better, given how well he’s played these last two seasons. And you’re kidding yourself if you don’t acknowledge his play has been first-rate during that time. But leave this point to the side for now: Harbaugh reached the NFC championship game with Smith–in fact, the team only won because of Smith and his brilliant performance against the Saints; Smith also had the 49ers up by 14 points in the championship game before the defense failed to hold the lead and the back-up kick returner decided to be a hero, twice, and fumbled another shot at a Super Bowl away. So if Harbaugh and Kaepernick don’t at least make the Super Bowl, they’ve failed, and Harbaugh has not only put a kid with two games of experience under unbelievable pressure, he’s botched this key decision badly. We’ll see. And that’s the best part of sports.

    November 29th, 2012 10:18 pm

  30. Rich, San Ramon

    Forget what happens next with the Niners. The story is that Jim Harbaugh, the quintissential NFL coach, unwittingly undid every effort the NFL has made lately to reform itself on concussions. When you have no other livelihood teed up for yourself but football, there is no way you don’t lie about your symptoms. That’s the lasting story here. Lie or lose your job. Very bad for the NFL p.r. machine, this episode.

    November 29th, 2012 10:29 pm

  31. Bob In Portland

    Grant’s column was better.

    November 29th, 2012 10:39 pm

  32. Jumbo Shrimp

    Lowell

    Why does DLHarte use an USF email? Now you’ve got me hooked!

    This guy sounds like one of the deluded Smithers from over on your son’s blog. He is addicted to “good facts” but immune to “bad facts” and blind to the “eyeball test.”

    Harbaugh benched Smith because he would never, never ever, beat the Giants or, for that matter, any playoff-calibre defense with a smart defensive coordinator this year. His limitations were exposed, and despite the “good facts” like 18-19 or 25-27, Smith’s QBR (the ESPN quantum that takes into account sacks and momentum shifting plays) had fallen by 30 points from his first five to his last five games, from excellent to average (see Sando).

    To all the guys who say Harbaugh would drop Kaepernick if someone better came along, I say “I hope so!” That’s how Bill Walsh did it, that’s how champions are built.

    Colin would just say, “Bring it!”

    November 29th, 2012 11:30 pm

  33. Sergio

    I agree with you Lowell that Jimmy could have handled this a bit better. What a number of people seem to be overlooking is that the coaching staff sees these players daily in practice – as do the other players. They have a pretty idea of abilities and tendencies. Alex’s success is very clearly tied to this coaching staff, not so much his individual ability. We would have seen sparks in the past otherwise. They weren’t there.
    Nolan selected him for his compliant, obedient nature – not his intangible “gunslinger” mentality. Kap may be compliant as well but he has shown an ability and nature to go outside the planned box to succeed.

    November 30th, 2012 6:55 am

  34. Dennis

    Geez Lowell, that kind of hurt. I don’t always argue with you and you know that. In fact, I agreed with you on most things about the Giants this year, including that they wouldn’t get past the Reds in the playoffs.

    As for the rest of your post, go look in the mirror and ask yourself those same questions. You are the one writing this stuff. I am just responding with my opinion about what you wrote. I like Harbaugh as a coach and personality, you don’t. I like Alex Smith as a quarterback, you don’t. I am a 49er fan, you aren’t. I don’t think I am the one with the issues here.

    November 30th, 2012 8:19 am

  35. Shane

    First, let me state up front, I am NOT related to Alex Smith!

    second Lowell, if some on this thread overrate Alex, you vastly underrate him. In a recent post or column you stated Kaep makes plays Smith can only dream about.

    Well aside from winning a helluva a lot of games, Smith had the kind of game any QB dreams about against New Orleans in the playoffs last year.

    As good as Kaep has looked in his two games, his stats are modest and against New Orleans the offense put an underwhelming 17 points on the board.

    He’s inexperienced, and while he will make some throws Alex couldn’t make, he’s also going to throw some picks Alex woudln’t. and that will cost this team.

    I think when something seems too good to be true it almost always is. a second year QB taking over at this point in the season for a QB having the kind of year Alex was having and winning the super bowl is too good to be true.

    Kaep’s time might come, but now was not that time. if Harbaugh is right he needs to at least get to the super bowl. big, unnecessary gamble IMO.

    November 30th, 2012 8:35 am

  36. CohnZohn

    dharte, In the championship game Smith was one for 13 on third downs. Hardly fantastic. He left 14 points on the field. He missed Kyle Williams deep and he didn’t even throw to an open Delanie Walker in the third quarter. I was watching that. I imagine Harbaugh was too. I think you need to get over this. History has moved past you.

    November 30th, 2012 9:17 am

  37. CohnZohn

    Bob in Portland, Grant’s a better writer than I am. He’s also better looking. And younger.

    November 30th, 2012 9:18 am

  38. Brady

    Lowell, you could not be more right. Harbaugh called Alex an “elite” quarterback, but he clearly did not think so.

    You know what happened when Matt Flynn, backup to elite QB Aaron Rodgers, finally got in a game, and threw for 500+ yards and 6 TDs? He got traded. You know what happened when elite QB Tom Brady lost a season to injury and his replacement, Matt Cassel, performed well? Cassel got traded.

    If you actually think a QB is elite, you will not bench him. Even the second tier QBs – Cam Newton, Josh Freeman, Tony Romo – have completely safe jobs, regardless of how their backups play.

    For the first time, I find myself disliking this Harbaugh character that you often take to task. I’m very disappointed.

    November 30th, 2012 9:22 am

  39. dharte

    History, Lowell, is just starting. You select the plays that highlight “weaknesses” for Smith and ignore anything he did well. Manning had many poor throws in that game; Smith had two long touchdown passes to Vernon Davis (something Manning, for all his genius, couldn’t manage). It was raining, a horrible day, etc. They were still up by 14 before the defense and Kyle Williams lost the game.

    You’re right on one point. Now Kaepernick is the choice, Harbaugh has made his call, and they have to win. If they do, you’re right about the gamble and it’s a remarkable decision by Harbaugh; he’ll be on a level with Walsh around here, and Kaepernick is going to be very famous. But if they lose, especially if they don’t make the NFC Championship game, then it’s 1987 or 1991, a blown opportunity and a wasted season, with perhaps their two best players on either side of the ball–Justin Smith & Frank Gore–34 and 31, respectively, and headed down hill.

    So let’s see if Harbaugh’s right, as you believe, or unnecessarily ahead of himself (and Kaepernick’s career, because the pressure now on the kid not to blow their chances this year is unbelievable…at least Brady stepped in for an injured Bledsoe at the Super Bowl–Belichick had no other choice).

    Really an amazing gamble by Harbaugh here. Who says NFL head coaches are conservative?

    November 30th, 2012 9:44 am

  40. RC

    I agree Grant is better looking, definitely younger, better writer, time will tell.

    Can we just cut to the chase here, CK is a better QB than Alex period. Alex got beat out for the Job. He actually did do things to lose his job, I should say lack of things. It’s clear to me when I watch the tape that CK is frankly better.

    I don’t really understand the arguments here, it’s a big boy league, Alex made alot of money, but he is not as good as CK, best guy plays.

    November 30th, 2012 9:58 am

  41. dharte

    @RC

    You’ve watched two games.

    Let me give you an analogy: in San Diego Drew Brees was consider a bust…”average arm, too small, couldn’t lead the team to a championship–nothing special,” etc. So the Chargers went after Philip Rivers and everybody loved the move–the kid was big, very strong, even cocky, and had a canon for an arm; he looked really good early on. Drew Brees became a throw-away player and left.

    The parallels are eerie. And remember, Brees, then in his mid-20s, had none of the success Alex Smith has had in the last two seasons.

    So if you think you “know” Kaepernick after two games, you’re kidding yourself.

    Harbaugh may be right, we’ll see, but don’t pretend this isn’t the biggest gamble in the NFL in decades. Two games. I’ve followed this team since Kezar–can’t remember anything like it in the entire league. Those who point to Bledsoe-Brady? Sorry, Bledsoe was hurt and couldn’t play in the Super Bowl. Belichick had no choice.

    This situation is Jim Harbaugh’s gamble and nothing else.

    November 30th, 2012 1:16 pm

  42. Jumbo Shrimp

    Oh, right. Alex is Drew Brees.

    (well, maybe he IS Drew Brees last night)

    November 30th, 2012 4:25 pm

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