12/16/2012 12:29 PM
Rookie to get tested in a big way!
Smith hurt, Kaepernick in, Kaepernick explodes vs. the Bears on Monday Night Football, Harbaugh gives the job to Kaepernick. You can look at it and quite logically judge that this all happened sort of randomly. (Even if we can figure that Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke were planning for Kaepnerick to take the job in 2013.)
Except… I think the timing also set up perfectly for Harbaugh to make a quicker call on Kaepernick.
I think if Smith had suffered the concussion a week or two later there might not have been enough time to fully immerse Kaepernick into the position before tonight’s playoff pre-cursor vs. the Patriots.
But Smith got hurt when he did and I think Harbaugh saw immediately last month: There’s enough time, let’s do it.
At the moment of Smith’s injury, Harbaugh looked at the upcoming schedule and saw…
Immediately after the landmark Chicago game, the 49ers had back-to-back road games against New Orleans and St. Louis (good tests for Kaepernick vs. crowd noise in domes) and then a home game vs. Miami (see what he’s like back on comfortable turf).
Then the big two, starting tonight in Foxboro: At New England (needs to go score for score with Tom Brady, in cold weather), then at Seattle (in the toughest crowd conditions the 49ers face, also probably in weather, against the 49ers’ bitterest division rivals).
Basically, I think Harbaugh saw a chance to give Kaepernick a solid four-game run-up to this point (2 at home, 2 on the road), just enough for Harbaugh and Greg Roman to feel comfortable that they’re not recklessly throwing Kaepernick out there without seasoning.
Tonight, Kaepernick will have to counter Bill Belichick’s defensive schemes. Great test, obviously. As true a pre-playoff challenge as you can get.