San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is not messing around. According to Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter, Harbaugh informed Alex Smith that Colin Kaepernick will start at quarterback on Sunday at New Orleans.
Trotter’s report states that the decision was not based on medical reasons. Smith is recovering from a concussion suffered in Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams.
Harbaugh apparently saw enough out of Kaepernick on Monday to decide that the second-year quarterback makes the 49ers better. Kaepernick went 16/23 for 243 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start, which amounted to a 32-7 win over the Chicago Bears. The Bears are third in the NFL with just 16.5 points allowed per game.
Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis was among those who felt Kaepernick improved the offense, saying after the win on Monday night that he felt like the handcuffs had been taken off of him.
Kaepernick’s second opponent will be the New Orleans Saints, which have won five of their last six games. New Orleans’ defense is ranked 27th in the NFL with 27.3 points allowed per game. They’re 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game, so it should be a softer matchup for Kaepernick than the Bears.
ESPN’s Trent Dilfer added to the report. He says that Kaepernick is receiving the snaps with the first-team offense in practice this week, but that Smith has not been definitively told he will be the backup on Sunday. As Dilfer said, this is just a matter of semantics; Kaepernick will likely start.