It isn't very often that a team leading its division has a quarterback dilemma in Week 11 of the season, but that is exactly what San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has on his hands.
As Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury writes, it appears from various comments Harbaugh has made this week that he is trying to seamlessly replace quarterback Alex Smith with his former backup Colin Kaepernick.
Smith suffered a concussion on Nov. 11 in a 24-24 tie against the St. Louis Rams, and in his place the second-year Kaepernick has led the 49ers to convincing wins over the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints. Smith has been with the 49ers his whole career, but didn't really enjoy much success until last year.
As Kawakami writes, Harbaugh went so far on Monday to say that Smith hasn't done anything to lose his job, but also refused to call Kaepernick the Niners' backup quarterback.
"Colin Kaepernick, you can't categorize him as a back-up quarterback, because he's started games and played very well in those games," Harbaugh said. "So in a unique situation, you have two quarterbacks that are playing at a very high level. One's your captain, your starting quarterback. The other has played great football the last three football games."
Smith isn't exactly the flashiest of players, but he has gotten the job done this year. He is completing a career high 70 percent of his passes, including a 24-3 win over Arizona on Oct. 29 when Smith went 18-for-19.
Kawakami writes that Harbaugh's language seems to insinuate that Kaepernick will be announced the starter this week, despite a now-healthy Smith.
Which explains why he went to great lengths on Monday to talk about sending a good message for sportsmanship and "it's about the team and all of us working together" no matter who starts... But, barring injury or some wacky two-QB system, the 49ers can only play one of them. It will be Kaepernick, and it should be Kaepernick, based on his last two games.
Nothing is set in stone yet, but it appears that there is a good chance that Kaepernick will be leading the 49ers through the playoffs and that Smith, after finally getting in the groove of things in San Francisco, fell victim to an ill-timed injury.