When the 49ers’ official depth chart was released Tuesday, the starting quarterback was listed as “Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick.”
That type of clarity is what we’ve come to expect from the 49ers since Smith went down with a concussion Nov. 11 and Kaepernick rode in on his white horse.
It’s been two weeks of coach Jim Harbaugh playing games with the public, fans and his QBs. Playtime is over.
Harbaugh said he’d probably name a QB today; he needs to pick Kaepernick and do it publicly. Because despite what he says, you can’t have two starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
Dragging this dilemma out week-to-week has no benefit. Much like a doomed relationship, does it do anyone any good to let the breakup linger over several weeks? End it quickly so both parties can move forward.
On the surface, the QB decision has about as much drama as watching “Titanic” (spoiler alert: the boat sinks in the end).
Kaepernick is the guy. He’s provided a spark on offense. Even the play calling appears to be more aggressive with Kaepernick under center.
The second-year man out of Nevada is averaging 9.19 yards per pass attempt, easily the best mark in the NFL among anyone who has attempted at least 70 passes. Smith’s 7.98 yards per attempt is very good, but it’s a clear sign that Kaepernick (granted, he has a limited sample size) has the ability to get the ball down the field more effectively. When you add Kaepernick’s ability to keep drives moving with his feet, it’s an open-and-shut case.
But Harbaugh and Co. have handled his seemingly inevitable promotion about as well as a 4-year-old would handle a calculus test. Or me for that matter.
Harbaugh is tossing around gems such as, “Alex Smith is our starting quarterback” but, “you can’t categorize Colin Kaepernick as a backup.” Huh?
QB quandaries spread like a virus unless you nip them in the bud. Ask Steve Young and Joe Montana. Ask Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.
It’s understandable why the 49ers would want to soften the blow. He’s been terrific this season (completing 70 percent of his passes), has been loyal to the organization and has shown tremendous resiliency throughout his San Francisco tenure.
But no one is saying the 49ers can’t change their minds. If you go with Kaepernick now and he struggles, you have a proven guy to plug in with Smith.
But the longer this drama drags on, the more it distracts from the real story. This is a team that should be considered the favorite to win the Super Bowl. Not one of the favorites, but the favorite.
However, as long as the QB debate rages, that will be lost in the shuffle.
The gamesmanship has gone on long enough. Name Kaepernick and move forward. Everyone will be better off.
Dylan Kruse is the sports editor of The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @dkruse16.