Whether it happens next week or next year, there's no question Colin Kaepernick's jaw-dropping performance showed millions of people around the world that he is indeed the long-term answer at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
Last week's relief effort against the Rams proved to be just the beginning. His progression in a little over a week proved to be bigger than anyone could have imagined. Just this morning I was offering up my thoughts to distressed 49ers fans clamoring at the thought of Alex Smith being on the bench.
@jsinc_ I'm a huge Kaep supporter. Loved him in college, his live arm will open things up downfield. High FBall IQ, 49ers win 2night by 7.— Tyson Langland(@TysonNFL) November 19, 2012
Clearly, my seven-point prediction was a bit modest as Kaepernick's performance coupled with the 49ers' defensive performance laid the ground work for a good old-fashioned beat down. When you look at No. 7's statistics, you say: man, he had a good game. When you turn on the tape, you say: man, that kid played beyond his years.
It goes beyond being able to hit the open guy—Kaepernick's footwork was precise in the pocket, he was making line calls and checks just as Smith would, there were smoke trails coming off the ball on slant routes and, most importantly, he took care of the football.
Each one of those traits is usually reserved for veterans, not someone making his first career NFL start. Kaepernick's 243 yards passing marked the second highest output from a 49ers quarterback this season. So you know there's a quarterback controversy brewing in the Bay Area.
To be honest, there should be. The second-year quarterback from Nevada made plenty of starter-worthy throws tonight. His most impressive play of the night was his third-quarter touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.
It was a broken play that resulted in the 49ers' offensive line giving Kaepernick plenty of time and space in the pocket. As he found an open throwing lane, he scanned the field from right to left a couple of times, and on his fifth read, he finally hit a wide-open Crabtree in the corner of the end zone.
That type of patience and field presence is something that is taught and instilled into a young quarterback. Very few players have that skill right out of the box. Kudos to Jim Harbaugh and his staff for making sure Kaepernick was highly prepared.
All week, the hot-button topic will be between the kid and the veteran: Who is most deserving of the start in next week's game against the Saints? Let Coach Harbaugh answer that one for you. Here's what he had to say after the game during the 49ers postgame presser:
Jim Harbaugh on QB: "We'll see. I usually tend to go with the guy who has the hot hand. We got two quarterbacks who have a hot hand."— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) November 20, 2012
Things definitely just got a little more interesting. But really, San Francisco has the second-best record in the NFC, and your backup quarterback just beat up on supposedly the best defense in the NFL. It's hard for me to believe Kaepernick would do any worse at this point than Smith would.
Ride his momentum into New Orleans next week and reevaluate from there if you have to. Don't mess up a good thing for the sake of an $8 million dollar salary and a veteran presence. Some good things must come to an end so you can realize there is something better waiting for you.
Follow @TysonNFL on Twitter