Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers' erstwhile backup quarterback, is the latest pothole in Alex Smith's career path. Kaepernick's success dominance, really against the Chicago Bears on Monday night was tonic for fans worried about what the Bears' well-regarded defense might do to an inexperienced sub.
It also guarantees that Smith's position as the 49ers' leader is no longer secure.
The adage that an injured starting player should reclaim his job after recovering is getting little love. Smith, held out Monday because of a concussion he suffered the previous week against St. Louis, by tradition would expect to be back under center when doctors clear him to play. But the idea of replacing Smith with Kaepernick has real support.
While Smith has yet to be cleared to play, there are conflicting reports that coach Jim Harbaugh has decided to start Kaepernick regardless of how Smith is feeling.
If that's true and Kaepernick falters against the Saints, pressure to make him the permanent starter drops, even though his athletic tools look top of the line. If he again excels, he could be The Man by acclamation, regardless of old-school rules of fairness.
Harbaugh is capable of making the switch. He professed his undying fealty to Smith after the 2011 season, then tried to persuade Peyton Manning to come lead the 49ers this season.
Harbaugh's bottom line, clearly, has nothing to do with loyalty to any one player and everything to do with finding the best quarterback available.
Smith might be that guy, but he has to prove it all over again.
What to watch
NFL, Patriots at Jets, 5:20 p.m., Ch. 3: Despite their records, it's always a good game between the AFC East rivals.
Which quarterback should start for the 49ers the remainder of the season?
Depends on who's hot
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Who should replace Jeff Tedford at Cal?
Sonny Dykes: 3%
Hue Jackson: 21%
Greg Roman: 16%
Chris Petersen: 46%
Total votes: 155