Did Jim Harbaugh Start A Quarterback Controversy Last Night? And Does It Even Matter If He Did?

  • Glenn Davis

We’ve already devoted quite a bit of space here to praising the job Colin Kaepernick did quarterbacking the 49ers to a huge 32-7 win over the Bears last night. But it bears repeating: he was phenomenal. Used almost entirely as a runner before filling in for an injured Alex Smith last week, Kaepernick picked apart one of the NFL’s best defenses, finishing with 243 yards and two touchdowns through the air while completing 70 percent of his passes.

How good was he? Well, he was so good that speculation about a quarterback controversy in San Francisco began immediately. Maybe you think such talk was premature. That’s fine… but speaking to reporters after the game, it didn’t sound like 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh thought it such an absurd topic to discuss. Fast forward to the 32-second mark of the video below:

“We’ll see” indeed. We’ll see, mainly, what people make of that comment from Harbaugh – and they’ve already made quite a bit. On SportsCenter this morning, for example, Trent Dilfer and Tim Hasselbeck, two former NFL quarterbacks themselves (and, in Dilfer, a guy who played a significant amount as a starter, but also bounced around from team to team quite a bit, so he knows something about job security being threatened), both criticized Harbaugh for potentially opening the floodgates, suggesting he got too caught up in the moment following a big win. And hey, no one ever accused Harbaugh of not being an emotional guy.

On the other hand – this does all seem a bit like fishing for a controversy. It started as soon as the game ended. Ultimately, this is a talking point, and ESPN et al love having those. The 49ers are a more controversy-friendly team than they were before Kapernick played brilliantly last night, and media outlets are going to wring every bit of interest they can from this new source. Harbaugh might have helped it along, but the “controversy” would have existed today no matter what he said. Oh, and remember the Niners’ pursuit of Peyton Manning last offseason? If Alex Smith could handle that, he can handle this.

And ultimately, it’s, as ESPN’s Monday Night Football team said itself, a good problem to have. Or, as Harbaugh put it, the Niners have two QBs with a hot hand. Various news outlets fanned the flames and Harbaugh did nothing to extinguish them, but this is a quarterback controversy because Kaepernick made it one.

The Niners, going forward, can either play a guy their tight end all but built a shrine to during his postgame remarks last night, or a guy who just finished 18-for-19 passing a couple weeks ago. No matter what anyone says or doesn’t say to a group of reporters – and, apparently, no matter who’s under center – the Niners are going to be a tough team to beat. If you’re going to condemn Harbaugh for potentially creating a distraction, you also better praise him for getting the Niners in a spot like this in the first place.