Jim Harbaugh took the league by storm last season when he joined the San Francisco 49ers and immediately turned them into a Super Bowl contender. The most amazing part of Harbaugh’s transformation of the Niners was the way he coached the potential out of Alex Smith, a former number one over-all selection that was considered by many to be a completely bust. Smith began to emerge as an extremely competent option under center, protecting the ball and leading the 49ers to the front of the NFC class.
This was why so many people felt like it was pure madness for Harbaugh to replace Smith with an unproven second year quarterback in Colin Kaepernick.
From his very first game against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, the young quarterback out of Nevada has been proving that he is ready for the moment. Despite the ups and downs you would naturally attribute to a rookie season, Kaepernick has shown poise and led his team to a first round bye and a home game in the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoff bracket.
Whether he was ready or not was just a small part of the conversation when the quarterback change took place. The biggest issue was that Harbaugh was handing the reigns over to the future of the team, while the present was still playing at a high level. This did not sit well with NFL purists and analysts all over the country. Smith had suffered a concussion and many thought he deserved to retain his starting status once he had returned to full health, after all, he was in the midst of his best season as a pro yet.
This of course led to the question of how well Kaepernick would do when dealing with the pressures of the NFL Playoffs. He would be facing a Green Bay Packers team with momentum on their side, and at every step the young quarterback would feel the weight of Alex Smith’s previous post season success.
In response to this, Colin Kaepernick came on to the field, and erupted in an electrifying performance on the game’s biggest stage.
San Francisco’s quarterback threw the ball for 263 and two touchdowns, but it was his record setting 183 and two touchdowns on the ground that settled all of the questions surrounding his place as the San Fran quarterback. He is a nightmare match-up for the opposing defense, and as he proved in this game, he can be the complete package.
Had he fell on his face, as many thought he would do after throwing a pick-six to start the game, Harbaugh would have been ridiculed and vilified for moving away from a proven commodity and going with the unknown. Especially with a team that appears to be so close to the ultimate goal.
There are still those that will say Kaepernick does not deserve to be the starter, but there are none that can say he doesn’t belong under center. He has stepped up to the challenge, despite all of the pressure the unexpected mid-season switch brought with it, and now he is celebrating a dominant win against the Packers, and will be back on display next week in the NFC Championship Game.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.