Jim Harbaugh and 49ers Should Stick with Alex Smith

Tyler PiccottiContributor IIINovember 21, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11:  Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before a game against the St. Louis Rams on November 11, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  Smith left the game with a concussion in the second quarter.  The teams tied 24-24 in overtime.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

I won't lie and say that Colin Kaepernick's performance against the Bears wasn't that great.

As a matter of fact, it was a terrific performance.

Against a Bears defense that has been an NFL starring attraction this season, Kaepernick threw for 243 yards and two touchdown passes. More importantly, he didn't commit a single turnover against a team that leads the league in takeaways. He was in complete control of the Niners' offense, and it resulted in a thorough beat-down of Chicago.

He played like a five-year pro. I get it. However, Jim Harbaugh's cryptic post-game comments about potentially handing the starting job to Kaepernick were completely misguided.

In my opinion, they were borderline insane.

Has Harbaugh forgotten that Alex Smith almost led this team to the Super Bowl last season? He set career highs in both passing yards and quarterback rating and only threw five interceptions during the course of the season.

Sure, his 17 touchdowns appear paltry in comparison to the numbers of the premiere signal-callers in the league. However, this is a 49ers team that relied on its defense and ground game to get the job done throughout 2011. For the system he is in, Smith played about as well as one possibly could.

Let's fast forward to this season. Smith has established himself as one of the most on-target passers in the league. This is evidenced by his league-leading 70 percent completion rate. He also currently holds the league's third-highest quarterback rating.

Before Kaepernick's start, the 49ers had a record of 6-2-1. Most NFL organizations would do anything for a record like that. Furthermore, Smith was likely on pace to surpass both his yardage and touchdown numbers from last season.

Simply put, he was playing great football.

Of course, Smith's play is not the only reason why Harbaugh would be crazy to give Kaepernick the reins. One game is hardly a reliable sample in determining a quarterback's readiness to lead the team out of training camp, let alone amidst a race for home-field advantage in the postseason.

If this was the case, Matt Flynn would be starting for the Seahawks and actually meriting his $26 million contract. Bottom line: Although Kaepernick is more mobile than Smith, we don't know much about his decision-making abilities in game situations. Yes, they were more than acceptable on Monday night, but that doesn't merit an immediate promotion to starting quarterback.

In addition, the Bears' performance was also an abnormal one. Whether it was their complete lack of rhythm on offense or something else entirely, the Bears looked lost at times during the game. They could not stop the San Francisco running game, which likely helped the passing windows open up for Kaepernick. In other words, when Chicago plays like it is supposed to, Kaepernick's numbers look much more pedestrian than they did the other night.

I will admit that I tend to air on the side of caution instead of making impulsive changes. However, I think that sort of mentality is completely justified in this situation. If I were Harbaugh, I would not want to risk my team's Super Bowl chances by putting my complete trust in a possible "one-hit wonder" under center.

Both quarterbacks may have the "hot hand" and be able to win football games. However, Alex Smith has had the hot hand for a longer period of time. Until he loses it through poor play, there is no reason to question his status as the team's starter.