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."

Report: Gutekunst remains with Packers, withdraws from 49ers' GM race

Report: Gutekunst remains with Packers, withdraws from 49ers' GM race

Green Bay executive Brian Gutekunst, who was widely considered a favorite for the 49ers’ vacant general manager position, has reportedly decided to remain with the Packers.

Gutekunst has signed a new contract to remain with the Packers, according to reports from ESPN and the NFL Network.

Gutekunst, 43, is in his 18th season with Green Bay and his first as director of player personnel. He interviewed with the 49ers on Jan. 5.

Gutekunst becomes the second Packers executive in two days to withdraw from consideration for the 49ers job. On Thursday, director of football operations Eliot Wolf decided to remain with Green Bay with a new title and an increase in salary. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wolf withdrew his name from consideration when it became apparent he would not get the job.

The race for the general manager position appears to be down to two known candidates: Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton and Arizona Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough. One source described the situation as "fluid."

Two years ago, Paton and Falcons coach Dan Quinn, the boss of presumptive 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, were reportedly connected as part of a possible general manager-coach team. Paton and Quinn know each other from their time together with the Miami Dolphins. Paton and Shanahan interviewed with the 49ers on the same day – both in Atlanta.

McDonough is a highly respected talent evaluator who was believed to have Shanahan at the top of his list all along for coaches with whom he wanted to work, according to sources.

Source: Shanahan does not insist on full personnel control

Source: Shanahan does not insist on full personnel control

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the presumptive coach of the 49ers, promised 100-percent focus on his current job.

Shanahan confirmed Thursday he expects to meet with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe for a second time after the Falcons’ NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Shanahan interviewed with the 49ers on Jan. 5 in Atlanta. He is the last remaining available candidate among the six coach candidates with whom the 49ers met after firing Chip Kelly. The 49ers announced the firings of Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke after the team concluded a 2-14 season.

Shanahan met with the media three days before the conference championship wearing a gray shirt that read, “The only fight that matters is the one we are in.

“You don’t have an option, so there’s nothing to get distracted about,” Shanahan said. “You can put this aside and totally focus on right here and right now. That’s not tough to do.

“This is an opportunity that I personally as a coach – I’ve wanted to win a playoff game my entire career and got to do that last week. Right now, that we have a chance to play for a Super Bowl, is pretty much what’s consuming my mind.”

The 49ers are prohibited from officially hiring Shanahan until the Falcons’ season is over. If Atlanta defeats the Packers on Sunday, the 49ers can still interview Shanahan next week and have him involved in the process to hire the team’s next general manager. But Shanahan could not be officially hired until following Super Bowl 51, which will take place Feb. 5 in Houston.

Shanahan admitted there is “some interest” but denied there’s been any spoken agreement he will become the 49ers’ next head coach.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there,” Shanahan said. “My friends growing up hear all that stuff. My wife hears that stuff. But everyone’s asking me what’s going on. I don’t know.

"I’m in my office looking at film all day and there’s nothing I’m allowed to do about it. So I think I’ll have an idea of that after the game. I don’t know what date that will be, whether it’s Monday or the following week, I’m not sure, and right now, I truly don’t care.”

The 49ers are expected to hire a general manager next week that will be matched with Shanahan. A source close to Shanahan told CSNBayArea.com that Shanahan is not insisting on full control over personnel and is fine working together with a general manager, on whom he would lean, to execute the plan with free agency, trades, the draft and determining the 53-man roster.

Green Bay director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst and Minnesota’s assistant general manager George Paton are expected to meet Tuesday with the 49ers and, possibly, Shanahan. The 49ers are keeping the door open on Arizona vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough. The 49ers informed a handful of candidates early this week they would not be brought back for second interviews. McDonough was not among those cut from contention.

Eliot Wolf, Green Bay’s director of football operations, pulled out of the running on Thursday. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wolf withdrew his name from consideration when it became apparent he would not get the job. The Packers increased Wolf’s salary and will give him a change in titles, according to the report.

If Shanahan and the 49ers determine Gutekunst is the man they want, Packers general manager Ted Thompson is expected to let him leave immediately even if Green Bay advances to the Super Bowl, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Two years ago, Paton and Falcons coach Dan Quinn, Shanahan's current boss, were reportedly connected as part of a possible general manager-coach team. Paton and Quinn know each other from their time together with the Miami Dolphins. Paton and Shanahan interviewed with the 49ers on the same day – both in Atlanta.

McDonough is a highly respected talent evaluator who was believed to have Shanahan at the top of his list all along for coaches with whom he wanted to work, according to sources.

The second interviews are reportedly scheduled for Tuesday in Atlanta, according to the report. The 49ers could have their next coach and general manager in place by the middle of next week – depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game.

“My situation outside of this week, I’m definitely excited about that,” Shanahan said.

“You’re only allowed to talk to teams when you do have a bye week. I got that opportunity a couple of weeks ago. Regardless of what happens in this game, win or lose, you can talk to them again when your season’s over or if you get another bye week. I know I think I’ll get that opportunity next week, whatever happens, and I plan on doing that.”