PROGRAMMING NOTE: Watch Jim Harbaugh's Wednesday press conference live on CSNBayArea.com at 11:55am. He is expected to announce who will start at QB this Sunday vs. the Rams.
Coach Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday is expected to supply the answer to the question, Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick?In order to answer that question, though, Harbaugh first had to ask himself something else.Which quarterback gives the 49ers the best chance to advance in the playoffs this season and win the Super Bowl?That's it. That's all that matters.This is not about which quarterback gives the 49ers the best chance to win Sunday in St. Louis or the following week against the Miami Dolphins. This is all about winning the Super Bowl on the first Sunday in February.
Oh, sure, there are smaller parts to the puzzle, such as . . . Which quarterback can make all the throws? Which quarterback is a better decision-maker? Which quarterback can keep plays alive with his feet? Which quarterback can make the better pre-snap reads to get the offense into the best plays?But it all comes down to whether Harbaugh believes Kaepernick, with another five regular-season games as a starter, will be better able to lead the 49ers into the playoffs than Smith.Perhaps, there's no wrong answer.Perhaps, there's no right answer, either.RELATED: 49ers' Walker expecting Alex Smith to start Sunday
This is not about what's fair. If that's the case, Smith would get his job back after being sidelined with a concussion. This is not about loyalty. This is not about building for 2013 and beyond. This is not about making sure the 49ers get some return on their investment to trade up in the second round for Kaepernick.It's all about the cold reality of winning football games.It would seem that Harbaugh telegraphed his intentions after Kaepernick's breakout performance against the Chicago Bears. The coach who all along had stated Alex Smith was his guy, was suddenly noncommittal about declaring Smith as his starter when he got healthy.Even with the answer for today, it does not mean that things will not change before the playoffs begin. (And the 49ers are definitely going to the playoffs with a 2 12-game lead in the NFC West.)If Harbaugh goes with Kaepernick, he must be prepared for a bump or two in the final five regular-season games. After all, he's a young guy with tons of potential who is still learning on the job. But if Harbaugh sticks with the veteran, Smith will be on a short leash after Kaepernick had his opportunity to show what he can do.