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NFL San Francisco 49ers

Harbaugh Bowl: Can Jim Harbaugh Trust Colin Kaepernick in Super Bowl?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Kaepernick makes his 10th career start Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII when the San Francisco 49ers meet the Baltimore Ravens, so how can head coach John Harbaugh possibly trust a quarterback that has started the equivalent of 56% of an NFL regular season on the precipice of the biggest game of his life?

His play in the previous nine games from the time when he replaced a concussed Alex Smith has been pretty spectacular, so maybe Harbaugh can trust his qb on the game’s biggest stage. He is 7-2 in those games with two of those wins coming in the postseason which included a performance against the Green Bay Packers where he set a rushing record for quarterbacks with his 181 yards in the 45-31 win.

Only twice in the history of the Super Bowl has a quarterback started a Super Bowl with fewer career starts than Kaepernick and the results have been mixed.

Jeff Hostetler only started six games which are the fewest career starts for a Super Bowl quarterback in league history. He replaced an injured Phil Simms with two games remaining on the schedule and helped lead the New York Giants to a 20-19 win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV when he completed 20 of 32 passes for 222 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions20.

Vince Ferragamo made his eighth career start in Super Bowl XIV for the Los Angeles Rams in place of an injured Pat Haden, and had his team in position to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, but despite leading for the first three quarters fell 31-19 to the Steel Curtain.

Neither Hostetler nor Ferragamo had the success that Kaepernick has already experienced as a starter, but I wonder if the atmosphere will get to the quarterback and we see him buckle under all the weight that is on his shoulders.

That hasn’t happened so far and has looked like a seasoned veteran with the way he handled his promotion after Smith’s injury and has crossed over every hurdle like he’s Edwin Moses, but will Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and the rest of the Ravens defense change that?

To examine the recent history of the game, the last quarterback to make a start in the Super Bowl with 25 or fewer career starts was Rex Grossman who started for the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. That is almost a full season more worth of starts and Grossman was in his fourth in the league at that time. He didn’t exactly have the complete trust of his teammates and coaching staff.

However, the year before Grossman flamed out for the Bears in the Super Bowl, Ben Roethlisberger took the Steelers to the Super Bowl in his second year in the league like Kaepernick, but he had 25 regular season starts and experienced the postseason as a rookie.

If Kaepernick can play like Hostetler and Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl he will go down as one of the best young quarterbacks in the illustrious history of the NFL, but if he comes out and plays like Ferragamo or Grossman, he may be yet another footnote in the illustrious history of the NFL.

Don’t be surprised if Kaepernick is humbled by the ferocious Ravens defense that has forced eight takeaways this postseason while making two of the game’s all-time great quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady look downright ordinary, and has his worst game of his young career.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on Sportstownchicago.com airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.