Harbaugh considers Kaepernick's 'hot hand'

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Harbaugh considers Kaepernick's 'hot hand'

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Alex Smith completed 25 of his past 27 passes over two games. But the 49ers now have another hot hand at quarterback.Colin Kaepernick made a convincing argument for unseating the NFL's third-rated passer with a sterling performance Monday night in the 49ers' 32-7 thrashing of the Chicago Bears at Candlestick Park.Kaepernick led the 49ers on scoring drives on the first four possessions of the game to open the debate on whether he will -- or should -- supplant Smith as the 49ers' starter on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.Smith was declared inactive after experiencing concussion symptoms late in the week, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. That provided an opening for Kaepernick to show why the 49ers traded up in the second round to select him in the 2011 draft."I wanted to come out and show what I'm capable of and show that I can be a starter," Kaepernick said. "That's what I've been trying to prove since I've been in the league."As for the impending quarterback controversy, Harbaugh said he believes in sticking with what's working."We'll see," Harbaugh said. "I usually tend to go with the guy who has the hot hand. We got two quarterbacks who have a hot hand."RATTO: For the 49ers, it's a full-blown QB controversy
But only one of those quarterbacks played Monday night. Kaepernick completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 133.1."I don't think one game can be called a 'hot hand,'" Kaepernick said.With six games remaining in the regular season, the 49ers (7-2-1) take a half-game lead over the Bears and Green Bay Packers (both 7-3) for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs behind the Atlanta Falcons (9-1).
The Bears played Monday without their starting quarterback, as Jay Cutler was also ruled out of action with a concussion. The Bears got considerably less production from their backup, Jason Campbell, as he completed 14 of 22 passes for 107 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Campbell was also sacked six times -- five coming from the bull-rushing Aldon Smith.RELATED: Aldon Smith leads strong defensive showing
Meanwhile, Kaepernick was outstanding. He got into a rhythm early as he hit play-action passes of 8 and 22 yards within the first two plays of the game. The 49ers drove into range for David Akers' 32-yard field goal to open the scoring.
"I thought Colin did an outstanding job," Harbaugh said. "He did a great job, poise in the pocket, pushing the ball down the field, throwing with accuracy. He did a nice job running the game plan. Everything he did was exemplary."Tight end Vernon Davis, who had caught just nine passes for 101 yards and no touchdowns in the past four games, appeared to benefit the most from Kaepernick's first NFL start."I felt like somebody took the handcuffs off me," Davis said.Davis caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. And he caught passes on plays in which the ball usually does not come his way, he said. Davis spoke in reverential terms about a Kaepernick fourth-quarter pass in which the ball was thrown despite tight coverage."The ball that he threw me, it was one of those balls that you see Tom Brady throw . . . second window . . . I didn't expect the ball to come because we run that play quite a few times and the tight end usually doesn't get the ball on that play," Davis said of the 11-yard gain. "But he saw it, and he put it there."It was a tight window. It was very, very tight. But he took a shot and he was very confident in himself, obviously, and he made it happen."Kaepernick made all of the throws on Monday, and he did not rely on his legs. He finished the game with just 12 yards on four rushes. He left the running up to Frank Gore, who finished with a game-high 78 yards on 17 attempts. Kendall Hunter added 27 yards and a touchdown on five attempts.On the second drive of the game, Kaepernick made a beautiful deep pass to Kyle Williams for 57 yards. On the next play, Gore picked up Lance Briggs on a blitz, and Kaepernick hit Davis for a 3-yard touchdown.
"We all know the talent he has and what he is capable of, but him just coming out there and just balling like that, making every throw, it's tough to say that you expected him to come in and make every single throw like he did," Williams said.Michael Crabtree caught three passes for 31 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter."I'm not worried about Kaep," Crabtree said. "Kaep's a baller. He's a gamer. He knows one speed and that's 'go.'"Of course, nobody in the 49ers' locker room was taking sides in the quarterback debate. But, certainly, Smith's situation is complicated by the fact that he was not cleared to play. And there is no guarantee he will be cleared to face the Saints, either.
"Not a big mystery here," Harbaugh said, "just felt that Alex still had some symptoms on Sunday and we were going to make the decision to go with Colin."Smith was required to be symptom-free in order to be cleared for practices Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Kaepernick got all of the practice time Saturday and Sunday, Harbaugh said."He (Smith) was having some symptoms later in the week and wanted to make sure that if he didn't get cleared that Colin at least got half the reps or more for the week," Harbaugh said.When asked about his situation after the game, Smith said, "They don't want me talking right now."Smith, 28, is having his best NFL season with a passer rating of 104.1, which ranks third behind Aaron Rodgers (107.3) and Peyton Manning (106.2). Smith has completed an NFL-best 70 percent of his passes. Smith is 31st in the league in attempts and his 1,731 yards is 29th.Kaepernick was impressive in every aspect of the game. But perhaps the most notable thing about Kaepernick's performance was that the 49ers' offense did not turn the ball over. The Bears came into the game with a league-leading 30 takeaways through nine games."We knew they had a lot of great players that try to strip the ball and try to make some plays on the ball," Kaepernick said. "That was one of the things we emphasized going through the week."

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”