Well, there was certainly enough media coverage on the subject, and Jim Harbough did his best at drawing out the drama as much as possible, but on Wednesday, we finally got the answer as to who the 49ers starting QB will be moving forward.
To nobodies surprise, Colin Kaepernick's two impressive victories over Chicago and New Orleans, coupled with his huge potential, has pushed himself ahead of Alex Smith as the 49ers starting QB. He made the decision pretty easy for Harbough with the way he's played ever since relieving a concussed Smith 3 weeks back. He's shown his ability to make plays with the football all season long on the ground, but he finally got his chance to stretch that arm out and he's shown exactly why the 49ers were so eager to trade up in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft in order to secure the Nevada alum. There's just such a big difference in the way Kaepernick and Smith each approach the game, and it's obvious already to me. Smith plays the game much more conservatively. He'll throw the ball away or check down rather than take that chance down field. Kaepernick will run away from defenders until he finds an open wideout or a running lane for himself and rarely wastes a down. Kaepernick looks for the big play when Smith is basically trying not to fail. For such little experience, Kaepernick already has a confidence level that appears to have exceeded Smith's. But when it all came down to it, Kaep got the job cause he's deadly accurate, has a rifle arm and is one of the top running QB's in the NFL. He's just better than Alex Smith, simple as that.
Unfortunately for the 49ers, they got some bad news coming out of the New Orleans game, as Kendal Hunter suffered an ankle injury that will end his 2012 season. Frank Gore's backup was having a career year, and was featured very largely in the 49ers offense, so it is a big hit to the club. This is another area where it helps to have Kaepernick out there, cause he you can design running plays for him so Gore isn't left with all the load. Gore's had a big season this year as Harbough has done a good job to not overuse him, so even with Kaep out there, the 49ers need another back to step up and take some of the duties Hunter filled. We've seen Brandon Jacobs make his debut with the 49ers, and he could be a guy that see's his carry numbers sky rocket, but the guy I'd like to see get some touches is 2nd round draftee LaMichael James. The rookie has yet to see any action this season, but could be used in the same change-of-pace way Hunter was being used. Jacobs is more of a between-the-tackles short yardage guy and the Niners already have that covered with Gore. What the Niners need is that explosiveness out of the backfield when Gore's getting a breather and I just think James has the best shot at being that guy. Not to mention, he's an ideal 3rd down back with his receiving abilities.
I couldn't go without mentioning the NaVorro Bowman contract extension. There hasn't been a bigger component to the 49ers defense the last year and a half than Bowman, including Patrick Willis, and he's really rounded into one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL. Willis and Bowman make the best middle-duo in the NFL, plus with Aldon Smith becoming a sack monster and Ahmad Brooks' all-around game growing, I think it's safe to say the 49ers have the best linebacking corps in all the NFL and none of them will be going anywhere anytime soon.