49ers Reportedly Will Start Colin Kaepernick Over Alex Smith Sunday vs. Saints

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2012

Colin Kaepernick dazzled spectators Monday night in Alex Smith's absence, and he's going to be rewarded for his efforts on Sunday.

According to Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter, the second-year signal-caller will start for San Francisco versus the New Orleans Saints in Week 12:

BREAKING: Jim Harbaugh has informed Alex Smith that Colin Kaepernick will start Sunday, per source. Said decision not based on health.

— Jim Trotter (@SI_JimTrotter) November 22, 2012

UPDATE: Sunday, November 25 at 9:30 a.m. ET

NFL's Albert Breer supports Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter's earlier-week report that the 49ers will start Colin Kaepernick, not Alex Smith, against the Saints in Week 12.

As @si_jimtrotter reported earlier in the week ... The 49ers will start Colin Kaepernick at quarterback today at the Superdome, per source.

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 25, 2012

---End of Update---

Despite Kaepernick's electrifying performance Monday night versus the Chicago Bears, this decision is surprising. Smith has been Harbaugh's personal project since arriving in San Francisco prior to last season.

The results have been good—Smith led the team to an NFC Championship loss last year, but maybe Harbaugh thinks Kaepernick has a chance to make things even better.

Kaepernick played well after Smith left the 49ers' Week 10 game versus the St. Louis Rams—going 11-of-17 for 117 yards—but he was even better Monday night. He shredded the Bears for a stunning 243 yards on 16-of-23 passing and two touchdowns. 

No one saw it coming. 

The 49ers have one of the league's best defenses and one of the league's most consistent ground games. A dynamic presence behind center is the only potential missing piece, and Kaepernick is the hot hand. 

Prior to the last two games, he was viewed as a Wildcat threat. Now, people are wondering if he has a future as a franchise quarterback. 

Sunday's game may allow us to find out sooner rather than later. If he plays well again—and a poor Saints defense suggests that he will—there's no reason to believe that Harbaugh is going to change his mind moving forward.

You have to wonder how Smith will take this news. He has endured a lot in his NFL career, and Harbaugh is really the only one who has given him a chance.

If Smith feels that Harbaugh has lost faith in him, there's no telling how he will play whenever he finds himself under center again.

Either way, all of the sudden, this is one of the league's most intriguing storylines. Quarterback competitions are common, but not on contending teams.

Kaepernick showed his mettle on Monday. Now, he must sustain it.