The San Francisco 49ers may have to once again entertain the idea of a QB controversy after a poor Week 13 outing from newly-appointed starter Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers' 16-13 overtime loss at the hands of the St. Louis Rams was the first blemish on Kaepernick's young resume and his ill-advised mistakes were a constant reminder of the stability that Alex Smith can bring to the offense.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh called Kaepernick the "hot hand" after last week, but can he still justify that reasoning if he sticks with the rookie moving forward?
In the third quarter of this week's game, with the 49ers leading 7-0 Kaepernick scrambled 10 yards into his own end zone and his attempted pass failed to reach the line of scrimmage. The ensuing intentional grounding call resulted in a safety and turned the momentum firmly in favor of the Rams.
Kaepernick's other big mistake is even more egregious. While running a triple-option play out of a Pistol formation that Kaepernick became comfortable with at Nevada, he pitched the ball a mile over receiver Ted Ginn and watched Janoris Jenkins take the ball into the end zone.
It is these types of errors that are expected out of a rookie, and they are also the types of plays that showcase the gamble Harbaugh and the 49ers are taking by starting Kaepernick.
Yes, he is a dual-threat weapon who can do exciting things with San Francisco's offense. From the option, to designed runs, to deep vertical passes, Kaepernick has abilities that Smith can only dream of.
However, he lacks one of the most important attributes that Smith touts—experience. Smith led this team to the NFC title game just one season ago and has been in tough fourth quarter contests on many occasions.
Plus, he was playing exceptionally well before losing his job due to a concussion. Smith is first in the NFL with a 70.0 completion percentage and is fifth with a 104.1 passer rating.
Now, this is not to say that Smith will immediately be given his job back. Kaepernick's mistakes were offset by 208 yards passing and an impressive 50-yard run, but thought must be given to the idea.
Pressure is now firmly on Kaepernick to step up and deliver in the coming weeks. If he doesn't, Harbaugh knows he has a great option on the bench waiting for another chance to shine.