Let the quarterback controversy begin.
Colin Kaepernick should be the 49ers' starting quarterback and Alex Smith should not. Kaepernick must be the starter — it's obvious — and if Jim Harbaugh goes back to Smith out of misplaced loyalty or just plain stubbornness, he is making the mistake of his life.
But I don't believe Harbaugh will go back to Smith. I firmly believe the transition from Smith to Kaepernick already happened, as in done deal. After the game, Harbaugh was asked if Kaepernick is his starting quarterback going forward.
"We'll see," Harbaugh replied.
For Smith, that was the reply of death. It was Harbaugh's chance to say Smith still is his quarterback, to endorse him. Harbaugh chose not to.
"We'll make that decision as we go forward," Harbaugh said.
He said he will ride the quarterback with the hot hand. Considering Smith had no hand in the Bears game and barely a hand in the Rams game, only one hand is red hot and it belongs to Kaepernick.
Kaepernick demolished the Bears, leading the Niners to a 32-7 win. But you already know that. He wrecked one of the elite defenses in the NFL and, although he had help from 10 other guys on offense, he was the engine that made the Niners' Ferrari run. He was. And in case you're wondering what the car was in the Smith days — they seem so long ago — it was a Toyota Corolla.
Kaepernick led his team to scores on their first four possessions. The 49ers scored 10 points in the first quarter. All that is significant. In the long ago Alex Smith Era, the Niners often didn't score in the first quarter. The offense would appear dormant or just plain dead. It was on life support — you could see it lying in a hospital bed with tubes and wires coming out of its arms and nose — and it was saved from dying by the stout defense.
We have forgotten around here what a fierce, dynamic, talented quarterback looks like. We can be forgiven for that — it's been so long. Just so you know, Kaepernick is what a good quarterback looks like.
His passes sizzle. He finds all his receivers. And most important, he finds his best receiver. Who is his best receiver? Well, that's easy. His best receiver is Vernon Davis, the premier tight end in the league.
In the long ago Alex Smith Era, Davis the Great became a vestigial organ on the Niners, kind of like the team's appendix. He was there but he had almost no pass-catching function because Smith didn't know how to get him the ball or didn't have the guts to do it. With Smith leading the team, the Niners squandered Davis, just wasted him.
Kaepernick threw to Davis three times in the very first offensive series — Davis caught two of them. In the game, Kaepernick targeted Davis eight times and connected six times. Which means Kaepernick was feeding Davis the ball. As you watched the game, you realized, gee, Vernon Davis does exist. He is no mere hologram now that the real Niners' quarterback, the one they had been waiting for, has taken over.
Kaepernick's first touchdown pass — in the second drive of the first quarter — was a dart to Davis. That drive took all of four plays and that means the 49ers finally have a quick-strike offense, instead of that slow methodical ball-control waltz they used to put out there with Smith.