Jim Harbaugh watched how Colin Kaepernick handled himself when things didn’t go right for the 49ers, and that told the coach plenty more about his second-year quarterback with all of three NFL starts to his name.
Enough that Harbaugh is sticking with Kaepernick under center — for now, anyway — as his team gears up for Sunday’s home game against the Miami Dolphins at Candlestick Park.
“Just a winning quarterback performance in tough circumstances,” Harbaugh said Monday. “In the evaluation, I thought Colin played well, did a lot of really good things, made some good decisions. ... I thought some real positives to take away from his performance.”
Yet Alex Smith isn’t out of this mix yet, either. Another sub-par performance by Kaepernick could have Harbaugh going back to the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick for the final December push toward the playoffs. The reigning NFL coach of the year is leaving every option open down the stretch.
A day after a 16-13 overtime loss at St. Louis, Harbaugh accepted the blame for the fourth-quarter pitch that was fumbled by Kaepernick and led to Janoris Jenkins’ 2-yard fumble return for a touchdown and ensuing 2-point conversion that tied the game. Harbaugh didn’t call the play, but relayed it through the headset to Kaepernick.
“Responsibility-taking starts with me on that option play that resulted in the nightmare scenario,” Harbaugh said. “Position of the game that where I should not let that play be called. So I take responsibility for that.”
At 8-3-1, the Niners are prepared for a challenge from the Seahawks (7-5) in the NFC West after Seattle won in overtime at Chicago on Sunday. The teams play at Seattle in the second-to-last game on Dec. 23.
Everybody around San Francisco is looking for a strong finish by a team that has set its sights on the Super Bowl.
After this week’s home game with Miami (5-7), San Francisco also must travel to New England in another daunting road task. The 49ers are certainly frustrated with the way their two games against the Rams wound up after a 24-24 tie on Nov. 11.
“We expect to execute,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “We didn’t execute. Late in the season we shouldn’t be having games like this.”