Sometimes, NFL coaches just need to find a way to see things objectively, and too often, some of them are unable to do so.
Jim Harbaugh is not one of those coaches.
After the way quarterback Colin Kaepernick performed against the Chicago Bears on Monday night, it's clear that he at least deserves a shot at maintaining the starting job. He got the nod because Alex Smith suffered a concussion in a Week 10 tie against St. Louis, and he led the 49ers to a 32-7 win over the Jay Cutler-less Bears.
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
That would seem to be an indication that Smith's job suddenly isn't so secure.
Of course, there's the chance that Harbaugh—and 49ers supporters in general—are jumping the gun a little bit here by putting full stock in Kaepernick after one start. We all know that anybody can beat anybody on any given Sunday (or Monday), and perhaps Kaepernick was just experiencing a bit of beginner's luck. Perhaps Monday night was a fluke.
Or it's possible that he really is more capable of leading this offense than Smith.
Prior to Monday's game, Kaepernick had zero career starts to his name and had appeared in just nine career games. It is a certainty that he was the beneficiary of his own defense on Monday. But maybe he's the secret weapon San Francisco didn't even know it had, a la Tom Brady in 2001. Hey, it's happened before.
And on top of the fact that Kaepernick went an impressive 16-for-23 with 243 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions against the NFL's fifth-ranked defense, he's healthier. He didn't suffer a concussion just over a week ago, and he's not still feeling the effects of it.
Who should start next week?
Situations like this are always risky. If Harbaugh goes with Kaepernick over Smith, Smith is obviously going to feel slighted. It's human nature. He may not feel Jay Cutler-level slighted, but there's going to be tension. There's also the chance that Kaepernick replaces Smith, fails and then Harbaugh tries to throw Smith back into the mix only to find that Smith is so insecure about his job at that point that it adversely effects his performance.
Then, there's the chance that Kaepernick does what he did to the Bears every week. And that could work out very, very nicely for San Francisco.
Life on the gridiron isn't always fair, and everyone knows it, players included. You're only as good as your last start. In Smith's case, that means he's only as good as the day he couldn't lead his team to a win over the hapless St. Louis Rams.
And in Kaepernick's case, he's as good as the day he led the 49ers to a decimation of the Bears.
He's proved that he is at least worth a shot. He's earned that. Now, hopefully, it won't backfire.