Jim Harbaugh has shown during his brief NFL coaching career that he's not afraid to make a gutsy call. He reportedly just made one of his biggest.
Jim Trotter of SI.com reported Wednesday that Harbaugh told Alex Smith that Colin Kaepernick will start at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Trotter reported that Smith, who missed a game with a concussion, was informed it wasn't a health-based decision.
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"I'm going with Kaepernick. Alex, I'm sorry," Harbaugh told Smith, according to Trotter.
Smith later told ESPN on the record that Kaepernick will take all the first-team reps at practice this week. While the ESPN report tried to leave some room open that Smith still could start, Harbaugh clearly declared his intentions with the practice reps.
Harbaugh probably isn't too thrilled about the news coming out when he intended to keep the matter a mystery this week. All signs pointed toward Kaepernick following the second-year pro's effort against the Chicago Bears.
Kaepernick was absolutely electric in his first NFL start Monday night, completing 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns without having to leave the pocket much. That came against perhaps the NFL's best defense. Kaepernick will face one of the league's worst Sunday at the Superdome.
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It's a remarkable moment in this season for the 49ers because they remain one of the Super Bowl favorites and Smith was enjoying the best season of his eight-year NFL career. Smith leads the NFL in completion percentage and yards per attempt. But he struggled in losses to the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. Smith doesn't excel at the vertical game, and Kaepernick has a higher ceiling long-term because of athleticism and arm strength.
Harbaugh always can go back to Smith. We don't believe Smith's confidence will be shot -- he has been through much worse. Quarterback changes have occurred on plenty of successful teams on their way to the promised land, and this 49ers franchise is about so much more than the quarterback.
The 49ers are after a championship. Harbaugh wants to see if Kaepernick can lead them there.Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.