The 49ers’ fascinating quarterback controversy saw a new wrinkle this morning, when safety Donte Whitner went on the Dan Patrick show and told Mike Florio that Colin Kaepernick would start on Sunday in New Orleans.
Let’s review what has been a wild Thanksgiving week in Santa Clara: on Wednesday evening Jim Trotter reported that Jim Harbaugh told Alex Smith that the job was Kaepernick’s, regardless of Smith’s health, and chaos ensued. Then Smith told ESPN’s Trent Dilfer that the starting spot was still up in the air with both quarterbacks simply splitting first team reps. Greg Roman reiterated as much to the local media on Thursday:
“No decision has been made. We’re hopeful that [QB] Alex [Smith] gets cleared tomorrow, physically. We’re confident in both quarterbacks to be on the field. We’re always going to make way all the information as we have it and make the best decision for the team at the time.
“Colin’s been getting pretty similar to what he got last week. He’s getting some of the reps and Alex is getting some of the reps, and that’s how it gets divvied up. It’s more play-by-play than first team reps, second team reps, really don’t know what that means. But the reps are divvied up accordingly.”
Then Whitner hit the airwaves and spilled the beans.
This comes on the heels of the 49ers’ recent cloak and dagger act, when they waited until Monday morning to announce that Kaepernick would be starting. In the process, Harbaugh and the 49ers threw Chicago a wicked curveball, one they hope to replicate against the Saints.
Harbaugh refused to name a starting quarterback on Friday afternoon. “We feel like there is no competitive advantage for us to announce that decision,” said Harbaugh, who did announce that as long as Smith’s concussion symptoms don’t return, he should be cleared tomorrow after undergoing another concussion test today.
Trying to make sense out of the madness
We’ll probably never know precisely how this week’s media firestorm went down, but here’s my best guess:
– Smith still has not been medically cleared to play, meaning his chances of playing in New Orleans were close to nil anyway, even if Smith is Harbaugh’s guy (he isn’t). I wouldn’t be surprised to see Smith listed as inactive for the second consecutive week.
– Harbaugh told Smith exactly what Trotter reported. Trotter’s source could be anyone, really — one of Smith’s teammates, a front office source, one of the assistant coaches, Smith’s or Kaepernick’s agent…
– Smith was told to toe the company line (example: Roman’s quotes above, which are designed to keep the Saints in the dark as long as possible). When Trent Dilfer texted/called Smith after Trotter’s report, Smith told Dilfer what he was supposed to.
– Whitner, who doesn’t believe the 49ers need to keep their QB situation private in order to beat the Saints, told Florio the truth. Like many of his teammates, Whitner is ready to turn the page and roll with Kaepernick for the rest of the year.
Could my story turn out completely incorrect? With the type of secrecy and deception involved, absolutely. Ruthless Sports Guy thinks this whole thing is a ruse and we’ll see Smith under center at The Superdome. We bet lunch on this, so I’m planning on ordering a delicious sandwich (Ike’s?) if/when
Kaep Kap gets the starting nod.