, David. Make this kick.
This one is important, much more than the one three weeks ago. Oh, sure, another miss would mean another tie, or even a loss, after another soul-crushing day. But more than the last, we need this one.
Or more precisely, Colin Kaepernick needs it.
This past week, he'd found himself in the eye of a storm. Jim Harbaugh had made it official (or about as official as he ever makes anything): he was going to do the unprecedented. More than halfway through the year, a season with serious Super Bowl dreams, he'd be changing quarterbacks, voluntarily. No doubt, in light of Kaepernick's thrilling debut, Harbaugh received a slew of support, both from fans and from pundits alike. But the move was so bold—or arrogant—there were those who'd be waiting, or even hoping
, to see the thing blow up in his face.
And I'm not even talking about the racists, more disgusting than any tattoo.
For his first game as the "official" starter, Kaepernick was rematched with the Rams, who'd squeaked out that tie three weeks before. Coupled with the roll he was on, that sense of unfinished business seemed to augur a blowout. And indeed, it seemed, we were on our way. Our D, clearly aware of the tie's early flatness, resumed its usual suffocation. Kaepernick, meanwhile, engineered a nice touchdown drive. And even as the Rams' D started clamping down—squelching the run, rushing the pass, and guarding against anything, anything
deep—we were on our way, or so it seemed.
But then came the safety. Though it wasn't too big a deal by itself, it was a gloomy sign of trouble ahead. Not just on the scoreboard, but more so for Kaepernick. You knew right away. No one would talk about the immediate pressure, which forced him to retreat straight back. No one would note that among his most impressive traits is his ability to get out of a fix like this. And naturally, no one would care that the refs blew the call, turning a good play into a phony mistake.
We'd hear only this: "See? Alex Smith would've just taken a sack! I told you so!
This is why he needs you, David.
Oh, sure, he made a quick recovery. That's another
of his most impressive traits: he seems to take failure personally. It seems, indeed, to piss him off. And so, despite starting out at the one, he responded with an amazing drive: 8 minutes, 13 plays, 94 yards. A touchdown would've been better, of course, but at least your field goal restored some order.
But next came the pitch. This, of course, was a real
mistake, and there's no excuse. Though many (including Harbaugh) criticized the playcall, I'll never question creative offense. And though fairness demands the observation that Ted Ginn had to fall on the ball, kick it out of bounds, anything
but do what he did, Kaepernick nobly took the blame: he'd simply tried to do too much.
Yet we'd hear only this: "See? Alex Smith would've just taken a sack! I told you so!
Indeed, no one would care about anything else. The way that Kaepernick responded again, with a 50-yard run and a perfect winning-touchdown pass, which Delanie Walker predictably dropped. The way that Dashon Goldson fueled the Rams' tying drive with another silly penalty. The way that Harbaugh couldn't find a place for LaMichael James, who was drafted to be the change of pace that we desperately needed since last week's carnage. And the way that Greg Roman was spooked into a Raye-like shell, running Frank Gore again and again, including on this final drive, when he seemed perfectly willing to settle for a 50-yard field-goal attempt.
David, I know it's not last year anymore. I know you're not in perfect health (or so we're told). But someone's
gotta pick up this kid. He made his mistake, but he responded by putting us in position to win, not once but twice. And yet, if you miss, we'll hear only about the mistake.
You know how the blogosphere is. The babbling will be horrible. After last week, the big story was Harbaugh's genius, for having the guts to make this move. Now we'll hear how stupid
he was, to mess with what was working so well. The I-told-you-sos will be insufferable.
And, of course, they will also be silly. Though many Niner fans seem to have forgotten this, a real quarterback's #1 job is not, in fact, to avoid mistakes. His #1 job is to make plays, which will put his team in position to win. So yeah, Kaepernick made a big mistake—on a stupid pitch
, not even a pass—but he compensated with several big plays, plays that Smith wouldn't have even attempted. And more importantly, he put his team in position to win.
But he can't do it all himself. And that's where you
come in, David. In fact, you represent the essence of all this knee-jerk foolishness. If you make this kick, the story will be that Kaepernick overcame a tough day and delivered a gritty victory. If you miss, the story will be—no matter how absurd it sounds—"Gosh, if only we still had Alex Smith."
You've had a rough year, David. After being so automatic last season, you're now a coin-toss—essentially unreliable—from 40-yards-plus. From beyond 50, you've made exactly one, and that was from 63, on opening day. So Roman was crazy to settle for this, as if this were some kind of chip-shot.
, David. Save us. Save us from the myopic chatter about Kaepernick's having lost this game. Save us from the silly notion that we could make it all the way to the Super Bowl if only our QB would throw short and take sacks. (And while you're at it, save yourself
; if you miss not one but two
game-winners, do you seriously think you'll get a chance at a third?)
We need this one. Or more precisely, Colin Kaepernick needs it.
, David. Make this kick.
By: mike kenney
Date: December 17, 2012 at 1:22 AM
Comment: Akers is a corollary of Smiths demotion. A game manager, backed up by a good defense, can rely on field goals. If your kicker is missing his chances, you need td's. Exit Alex.
By: The Most Interesting Man In The World
Date: December 8, 2012 at 10:23 AM
Comment: Jeff....Stay Hungry My Friend...And remember, genius is in the insanity...Don't question Hardbum, my friends...He doesn't answer questions.
By: The Most Interesting Man In The World
Date: December 7, 2012 at 6:05 PM
Comment: Do you want my opinion on this?
By: Terry B.
Date: December 7, 2012 at 11:09 AM
Comment: Big time throws when the game required it? I guess the Giants game didn't require it. Could have fooled me. You've now twice dodged the point that neither Harbaugh nor the personnel departments of at least 31 NFL franchises want Alex Smith as their starting QB. If you want him as your starting QB, then you're simply out of your depth. And, yes, winning is the point, which is why Harbaugh has decided to start the better QB.
Date: December 7, 2012 at 8:22 AM
Comment: Funny how Captain Checkdown made big time throws when the game required it. Throwing into double and triple coverage. Funny how he could throw it deep. What you fail to recognize is that Smith not throwing it downfield is not a negative but is rather more of a positive. Joe took what the Opposing Defense gave him too. Rarely ever threw Passes further than 25 yards. Wins are Wins because of that. Takes time off the clock and puts the Opponent on their heels. You keep saying Game Manager like it's a bad thing. Why the hell should 9er fans want to get into a Point fest when the best thing this team can do is keep QB's like Brady, Brees, and Rodgers on their bench chewing on a towel waiting to get back into the game? I always thought the point of Winning the game was actually WINNING and not throwing up quick scores. Quick scores are all well and good but Kappy isn't doing it either. What's the excuse for that? Our team lost the last game and Kappy didn't look all that explosive against a Team that the Jets scored 27 points on. I don't care how much upside Kappy has if starting him leads to a Loss. I understood Starting him when Smith was injured. But now he is healthy.
By: Terry B.
Date: December 7, 2012 at 4:35 AM
Comment: Ceadderman, I have more than given Alex his due. He's a good game manager, he's good at playing it safe, checking down, and avoiding mistakes. Alex is everything you could possibly want in a backup QB. If that's all you want from your QB, good for you. However, Smith still has all the flaws as a QB that he had under NoWin and Dingleberry. Harbaugh's genius is in masking Alex's considerable flaws by designing an offense that doesn't ask him to do too much. As Greg Cosell has pointed out more than once, Harbaugh learned that the way to succeed was to hide Alex Smith. But Harbaugh doesn't want to hide his QB, and that's why Harbaugh has been looking to replace him ever since he got here. If I'm "out of my depth" then so is Harbaugh. Also, as I pointed out to Charles, the only NFL team to have even slight interest in Alex when he was a free agent was Miami. Why? Because no team in the NFL wants Alex Smith to be its starting QB. His future in the league is as a competent backup. So, it looks like at least 31 NFL personnel departments are out of their depth too. If only they would listen to you, right?
Date: December 7, 2012 at 2:09 AM
Comment: why do i have the feeling that no matter how kaep plays for the rest of the year, your articles will always be full of compliments for kaep and full of criticism for smith?
Admit it, You're an alex hater more than you are a kaep lover. Vick and cam newton are exciting as well but it doesn't guarantee wins. Kaep is explosive but doesn't guarantee wins any more than alex.
Date: December 6, 2012 at 8:43 PM
Comment: I only found two flaws in CKs game against the Rams. Both flaws were mental mistakes. No excuse for a QB regardless of experience to run into the endzone. I had noted the pass rush, whats new? Every game has bad calls, whats new? No excuse for anyone especially a QB to run out of bounds in that situation. Those two plays are entirely on CK. I do not place the blame on CK for the loss. Without going into the details there were numerous chances to win the game. I am seeing the same problems with the offense as I did with AS. Where is this potent offense - 30 points in the last two games. Note the botched play sucked but it was a bad play call - Roman, bad coaching - Harbaugh, bad execution - CK, lack of hustle - Ginn. It doesnt bother me as much as the two mental mistakes. CK hopefully is going to get better.
Date: December 6, 2012 at 1:01 PM
Comment: "Alex did nothing to deserve a benching? How about being the second best QB on the team? How about failing to be a playmaker? And he's proven himself over and over? How? With his career 79.1 rating?"
Terry you're showing you're out of your depth more and more. What has Kappy done to show that he deserved to be the Starter? He's averaging less in the statistics than Smith has over the last year and a half. You cannot count the Nolan/Singletary era. Quite simply because they've proven they were inept at bringing a Young QB along. Kappy has more at his disposal than Alex Smith ever had. I'm not talking about personal talent. I'm talking about Receivers, OLine, Running Backs etc. You can talk smack about Smith all you want but the truth is that Smith simply won games despite the lack of all of the above and an inept coaching staff. Smith DID show that he could do the job. Anyone that says he didn't is simply whining because they're booty hurt that Nolan passed on Rodgers and took Smith. You'd feel the same way about Captain Discount Doublecheck if he were the 1st overall. Sad that you can't even find the cajones to at least give Smith the credit he deserves.
By: niner troll
Date: December 6, 2012 at 10:52 AM
Comment: Good job JK, keep up the good work!
By: Terry B.
Date: December 6, 2012 at 9:39 AM
Comment: Charles, Alex did nothing to deserve a benching? How about being the second best QB on the team? How about failing to be a playmaker? And he's proven himself over and over? How? With his career 79.1 rating? His mediocre won-loss record? His last place in deep ball percentage? Brady, Manning, Manning, Roethlisberger, etc., have proven themselves over and over. Alex Smith? Please. Here's a question for you. Why do you suppose that when Alex was a free agent, the ONLY interest he got was lukewarm interest from the Miami Dolphins? You would think with so many teams desperate for QBs that a starter who had "proven himself over and over" would have generated more interest. But he got less interest than Matt Flynn, for God's sake. Do you really think that the personnel departments of all these other teams are just missing something? When teams look for a starting QB, they're not looking for someone who just checks down and doesn't make mistakes. That's what they want in a backup, and that's what the future holds for Alex.
By: Paul A
Date: December 5, 2012 at 12:54 PM
I have to disagree with you. Hoping to win a game in overtime by kicking a 51 yard field goal is not the way to the SB. The QB made two very big mistakes that resulted in points that tied the game. As we all know the window for the SB does not stay open long in the NFL. This is the year to get it done for the 9ers. I do not think Gore has another SB run in his legs, Justin is 33 yrs old and how much longer can the coach ask his players to give the effort needed to make another SB run? Those of us who were here for the 5 SBs know you need to be not only perfect but lucky to win the SB. For the first time this year I'm not sure we can make it to the SB, forget winning the damn thing. Hope I'm wrong!
Date: December 5, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Comment: I have nothing against promoting a "back up" qb--just do it right. Alex did nothing to deserve a benching. Alex has proven himself over and over--he did not deserve to lose his starting job due to injury. Now is not the time to meddle w/ what has worked thus far. Harbaugh did not show any class, he might be throwing the season away. As for Akers--time for a change.
By: Ron C.
Date: December 5, 2012 at 10:01 AM
Comment: The true game managers should be Roman and Harbaugh. It seems that Alex was now managing the game managers after all. Alex calls off plays that are called in with regularity and knows the offense and can read defenses better at this point. Kaepernick is too inexperienced to game manage the game managers the way Alex can. Roman lost this game with horrible game plan and game management and the real picture of who has been protecting Roman the last 25 games has been Smith with his smartness of not losing the game with stupid plays. The truth has come out that Roman who has been touted a possible head coach needs Smith to manage HIM!
Date: December 5, 2012 at 9:53 AM
Comment: We would be 10-2 and have a shot at home field advantage throughout the playoffs had he made the field goals in OT both times against the Rams. Those are gonna come back to haunt us.
By: Chris P.
Date: December 4, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Comment: Kaplan, the quarterback's #1 job is to win games. The pitch was a poor decision and a poor call by Roman. We get that. But, you completely overlooked Kap running OB with a minute and change left which most definitely helped the Rams send the game to overtime. To lose this game, up 8, with 4:30 left against a team that didn't even score a TD is inexcusable at this point in the season. We should not be holding tryouts in December. It's not even about who should play QB anymore. It should be who gives us the best chance to consistently win games. In my opinion, which is in the tiny minority, while Kap gives us the best chance to make a spectacular play, Alex gives us the best chance to win games THIS December and into January. We can't be having growing pains with a dude that has three NFL starts to his name while a first round bye is in our grasp.
Secondly, I love how Kap gets a pass because he's your guy. You see what you want to see Kaplan and that's what makes you a poor "sportswriter." Kap made a couple very poor decisions and he missed a couple WIDE open guys last week including Vernon for a TD. If that were Alex we would have heard another "I told you so" from you.
Date: December 4, 2012 at 8:36 PM
Comment: Its amazing to me how if you just take a scenario without putting a name to it, everything changes. If Tim Tebow relies on D and special teams to win he is a "gamer" and a "winner." Brady looked fairly average against the same Phins team we have to play next week, but he is a wiley veteran, but we expect Kaep to be perfect every game for this decision to be the right decision? tough division game on the road, if Akers hits the kick or walker catches that perfectly thrown ball, I call that a pretty gutsy win. Every QB needs help from time to time. Im still not sure why we are not using Davis more, this is a mystery to me. However next week I like Harbaughs bounce back record (5-0?), and frankly i dont expect kaep to light the phins up but he will play well and we will get the W...
Jeff curious question, how do you choose what to leave responses to? dont you just read certain comments sometimes and feel like you just have to rebut?
Date: December 4, 2012 at 2:03 PM
Comment: Akers is a disappointment. Unfortunately, the available pro kickers out there are also known to choke when it matters (Cundiff and Kaeding).
Date: December 4, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Comment: Surely, Kaepernick is more talented. Surely, down the road he is capable of winning games in more ways than Smith. But perhaps not for this year. I don't understand the risk.
The only way replacing Smith is a good decision is if Kaepernick wins games that Smith would not have. So far he has lost a game that Smith would have won.
It is a lot of pressure to put on Kaepernick. We will know by the end of the season.
By: Dallas Niner Fan
Date: December 4, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Comment: The only thing I can say about this is that I had a really bad feeling when Harbaugh replaced Smith. I feel even worse about it after the Rams game. I hope I am wrong, we will just have to wait and see.
Date: December 4, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Comment: You're right that Kap is getting a lot of undeserved flak for this. The safety call was BS and the infamous toss play is on Greg Roman for calling it and Ginn for playing it so stupidly. That being said Kap had some pretty pedestrian numbers against a defense that the freakin' Jets were able to beat. Self-congratulatory race-baiting isn't welcome, BTW. We get enough of the crap on the evening news.
Date: December 4, 2012 at 10:44 AM
Comment: I support coach's decision because i know Kap is ultimately the more talented QB. At the same time, this whole thing worries me because come January, championship teams almost always need a hardened veteran with playoff experience at QB, which Alex certainly is. Tom Brady is one of the rare exceptions to that rule. History is not on Kap's side, so I hope for our sake he rewrites the book. Also, WTF is up with Akers?
Date: December 4, 2012 at 10:05 AM
Comment: Great article. Anyone disagreeing is looking for a reason to say Alex is the better choice - which he definitely is not. This is coming from a Smith supporter. Alex is an awesome human being and a good QB, but Kaepernick simply offers more.
By: Jerry Z
Date: December 4, 2012 at 9:43 AM
Comment: I'm starting to think there is something bigger wrong with this offense. We supposedly have 2 very good quarterbacks, a much improved set of receivers, 2 very good tight ends, a great running back, one of the best o lines but overall a pretty average offense. Now since we can't blame Kap, we have to blame Akers?
There appears to be a lot of talent on the offense but the offense has played well in only 1 of the past 4 games. Maybe this great coaching staff isn't as good as most people think. Blaming Akers sure isn't the answer. That is purely an attempt to shield Kap.
By: Mr. P
Date: December 4, 2012 at 9:31 AM
Comment: So Kap provides 10 points to the Rams... but he sure can run 50 yards well!?!
That is still a -10 point margin.
"Though many Niner fans seem to have forgotten this, a real quarterback's #1 job is not, in fact, to avoid mistakes. His #1 job is to make plays, which will put his team in position to win."
Those 10 points lost us the game. Those 10 points did not "put his team in position to win."
I love Kap, he certainly is great, and he sure is fun to watch, but the hot hand is the hand that wins. That most important of all QB stats: W vs. L record.
Without those mistakes, the defense would have won that game. Like the 9ers are built to do.
Date: December 4, 2012 at 8:52 AM
Comment: Oh, so now it's the kicker's fault. You really are priceless.
By: M. Horner
Date: December 4, 2012 at 8:15 AM
Comment: Mouse, you can't say "if Alex had the game Kaep had," because that's an impossibility. Would Alex have had a 50-yard run? And we don't have to worry about Walker dropping Alex's pass, because Alex never would have even attempted that pass.
By: Terry B.
Date: December 4, 2012 at 8:12 AM
Comment: I'm glad to see that you stuck to your guns. I was afraid you might take a cue from our resident lagomorph and write a column saying, "see, this is why I said all along that Alex should remain the starter."
By: David (not akers)
Date: December 4, 2012 at 7:54 AM
Comment: I understand the switch to Kaep. After the giants blew us out I came to a conclusion we probably aren't winning a superbowl. We are going to beat miami, in new england we will need a perfect game, but week 16 in seattle might be for the division and we will need that game. If we go 3-1 we should get the bye week, which would be a hot finish.
Date: December 4, 2012 at 7:24 AM
Comment: Jeff, your article explains exactly what I've been telling fellow 49er fans immediately after the Rams game. Kap made mistakes, but I like how he bounced back and put us in position to win (twice). And as we all know, football is the ultimate team sport. Everyone has to do their part. Another thing that I must note is that as a young QB, I expect to see him make other mistakes which I believe Harbaugh (as a head coach and former NFL QB) understands. The thinking is that come playoff time Kap will have had starts on the road vs NO, NE, and Seattle and should be prepared for the playoffs. I really like Alex Smith and it's unfortunate what happened to him this year. However I still firmly believe Kaepernick gives us the best chance to win games. Ultimately time will tell.
Date: December 4, 2012 at 7:10 AM
Comment: The irony is if Alex had the game Kaep had people wouldn't be so forgiving.
Date: December 4, 2012 at 6:59 AM
Comment: Would'a, could'a, should'a... Starting to sound like an early Smith supporter.
I'm pulling for Kap all the way, my only question was why fix what was not broke?
By: Jerome Manson
Date: December 4, 2012 at 6:26 AM
Comment: I'm not sure on the decision to pull Smith as the starter, but Kaepernick isn't bad, too bad he had no help against the Rams. I don't know if they can make it to the Super Bowl.
Date: December 4, 2012 at 5:47 AM
Comment: Hey Jeff, stop blaming the kicker. Seriously though that game left a nasty taste and it still lingers. About that safety, the O-line has received praise about how good it is and that crap happens more often than not. For Kaepernick, awareness is a lesson he needs to keep in the back of his head. He also needs to control his excitement, that toss to Ginn and a couple of passes that he rifled through receivers' hands I partly attribute to him. I'm a little concerned for the season though, the kid was bailed out in New Orleans and now this performance in St Louis. Harbaugh can't reinstate Smith regardless, so we ride the remainder of the season on the back of Kaepernick and looking at the remaining schedule, it may get bumpy.