The big question after 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh made the change from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick seemed to be this: Is anything less than a Super Bowl appearance mean it was the wrong move?
Silly question, really. Too many things go into winning and losing football games at the playoff level, and issues such as Justin Smith’s injury and the kicking woes are no small factors to the negative. And that Frank Gore right now feels like that guy poised to have a monster game to propel the Niners to New Orleans is a huge one to the positive.
But now that the 49ers are one win from getting to that elusive Super Bowl, the answer to that aforementioned big question seems clear.
It was the right move.
Was it fair to Alex Smith, as well as he’d been playing before being concussed? No. But like life, professional sports comes with no guarantee of fairness, and “fair” obviously never figured into Harbaugh’s
It was a decision based on what’s right for the franchise Harbaugh has been entrusted with guiding not just now, but well into the future, and anyone who can’t see that he made the right call at the right time is misguided.
Kaepernick was drafted to take over for Smith, either sooner or later. It might have been even sooner than it was had Smith not pulled off one of the better feel-good stories in recent Bay Area sports by exorcising so many demons with a very special 2011 season.
He was on his way to a pretty special season this year, too, and for that he deserves another great deal of credit, respect and admiration. But what Kaepernick has done is special in its own right, and he has a chance — a very real chance — to do something even more special today in Atlanta.
If he doesn’t get to the Super Bowl, has he failed? Hell, no. He’s already provided some ungodly thrills in his short time at the helm, with the promise of many more to come. And let’s not forget that the Falcons are the NFC’s top seed, playing at home, and buoyed with a pretty decent recent history of success against the “mighty men” Harbaugh holds so close to his heart.
But you do like Kaepernick’s chances, don’t you? You do feel just a tad better about his chances than you might were Smith still under center, right?
If you’re being honest, that answer is yes.
But it shouldn’t all be based on the QB. From this angle, it also should be based on Gore, who has been a model citizen, teammate and ambassador to Niners Nation from the day he arrived.
That’s what makes today feel so right. Sure, Gore’s gone off in recent games, including against the Packers. But the Packers game was all about Kaepernick, and rightfully so. It was a performance for the ages.
To expect more of the same might be expecting a little bit too much.
To expect another big game by Gore, though, or that long-awaited breakout by the beast that is Vernon Davis, doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
It seems about right. Can we rightfully expect two standup guys who have been through much of the turmoil that fans have endured between glorious eras to come up huge in the NFC Championship Game?
Does that seem like a silly question?
Not in the slightest. In fact, it seems perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?
Mychael Urban has covered Bay Area sports for more than 22 years as a contributor to Comcast SportsNet, CSNBayArea.com, KNBR, MLB.com, ESPN The Magazine and various newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.