NEW ORLEANS -- Jim Harbaugh is an excellent dancer. If they held a dance contest in the NFL, he'd win. He can do the jig, the Lindy Hop and the boogaloo. He was dancing up a storm after the 49ers defeated the Saints 31-21 on Sunday, dancing around every question about who will start next game at quarterback for his team.
"We'll address that at a later date," Harbaugh said.
Why is Harbaugh hesitating to name Kaepernick the starter?
"I have nothing to explain," Harbaugh replied, explaining nothing. "You call it hesitation. I don't feel any hesitation. We'll make the best decision for us going forward."
Harbaugh will start Kaepernick next Sunday against the Rams because he isn't crazy. Well, he may be crazy, but he isn't an outright lunatic. He saw what Kaepernick did against the Saints, a good team playing for its playoff life, a good team playing in a giant room so loud it sounded like the inside of a nightmare.
Kaepernick led the Niners to a win and did things Alex Smith never allowed himself to dream of doing. Smith would be embarrassed to have fantasies about stuff Kaepernick does routinely.
Like the missile he launched to Mario Manningham in the first quarter. The official score sheet says the pass went 13 yards — vertical yards. But Kaepernick threw an out pattern that must have traveled 20 yards before Manningham grabbed it and ran forward. Out pattern is the toughest pass to throw in the universe — Smith couldn't throw one with a rocket launcher strapped to his arm. Kaepernick does it like breathing. On the next play, Kaepernick ran around left end for a touchdown. He does that like breathing, too.
Kaepernick threw a similar out pattern to Michael Crabtree in the third quarter, and followed that on the same drive with a 25-yarder over the coverage into the eager hands of Delanie Walker. Perfection. A string quartet playing Mozart and making you cry from the sheer beauty of it all.
Remember this. The game was tied 14-14 at the start of the third quarter. The Niners got the ball first. It was time for a statement drive, something Smith rarely does — make a statement. Kaepernick led the 49ers down the field for a touchdown, 80 yards in six plays. Statement loud and clear.
So, Kaepernick runs better than Smith and makes throws from inside and outside the pocket better than Smith. What he lacks in pre-snap reading ability, he's picking up fast. Call him a student of speed reading. He took zero sacks against the Saints. Facing similar pressure Smith is a sack machine. Kaepernick ended the quarterback controversy, such as it was, in the din of the Superdome, ended it rudely and definitively.
This is exactly the right time for Harbaugh to choose Kaepernick. It allows the second-year player to get on-the-job training for the playoffs and Super Bowl. The only question is — Why didn't Harbaugh make the change sooner? No way in a million years Harbaugh is going to bench Kaepernick after he just beat the Bears and Saints. But Harbaugh will play his little games. Let him play.