The San Francisco 49ers have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. They sit atop their division by three games and have the second-best record in the NFC.In two seasons coach Jim Harbaugh has completely changed the culture of the organization with his winning attitude and his competitive spirit.
The 49ers have a dominant running game, a stingy defense and a Pro Bowl kicker to bail them out when their offense sputters. On paper, this seems like the perfect blueprint for success. But there is a fatal flaw that will ultimately lead to the team's demise.
They have a full blown QB controversy that won't go away.
A few weeks ago, Alex Smith was nearly perfect against the Arizona Cardinals, completing 18-of-19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. His starting job was not in jeopardy and the team looked impressive. A few weeks later, Smith suffered a concussion and was forced to miss a game vs. Chicago.
Backup Colin Kaepernick got the nod and made the most of his opportunity, going 16-for-22 with three touchdowns as the Niners cruised to victory. When Alex Smith was finally cleared to play, coach Harbaugh decided to stay with the "hot hand" and Kaepernick remained the starter.
It's never a good idea to play musical chairs with your starting quarterback. It divides the locker room and manipulates the emotions of the players in question. Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick will stop trusting their teammates, the coaching staff and each other the longer this controversy persists.
In addition, it's hard for the team to find a rhythm. As soon as they get used to one style of play calling and formations, the offense changes to accommodate a different quarterback. Getting reps with the first team is an essential part of preparation during the week.
If this was September, the benching of Alex Smith wouldn't be as significant. But in late November, it's a distraction that undermines the team's ultimate goal. At this time of the year, a team needs a definitive answer at the most important position on the field. If there is uncertainty or doubt, the players won't know who to follow. By sticking with the "hot hand," coach Harbaugh has opened up a can of worms that he can't close, and the 49ers will pay the price by missing the Super Bowl.