Coach Jim Harbaugh addressed the media on Wednesday as the 49ers prepare for their Week 13 matchup at St. Louis.Do you have a quarterback announcement?**
"Yes. [QB] Colin Kaepernick. It'll be our plan to start Colin and prepare him to make that start this week against the Rams."
And then what's the rationale behind that?
"Well, the rationale is you've got two quarterbacks that we feel great about as the starting quarterback. Both have earned it. Both deserve it. And [QB] Alex [Smith] over a long period of time. Colin by virtue of the last three games. What tips the scale, is Colin, we believe, has the hot hand and we'll go with Colin. And we'll go with Alex. They're both our guys."
Do you seek input by the players, the veteran players on that, or was this your decision?
"First of all, I talk to players all the time. Every day, all players, anybody that wants to talk to me about any topic. But, yeah this is one of those decisions that you make as the head coach."
What kind of feedback do you get from the veterans? You know, guys who have been with Alex and might have some loyalty to him dating back to 2005?
"You really don't have the right to know what all those conversations are. And they've strictly been, as it relates to the quarterback, that the players believe in both those guys."
You have two guys that are very capable obviously like this. Would you consider kind of having some kind of a bullpen situation? A guy has a bad half, or struggling or something like that, maybe say OK, sit down. I don't mean every play, or anything. But, you know?
"No. You start talking about speculation, or every permutation that you could get into. We're not going to speculate on it. We'll worry about everything and we'll fear nothing, no moment, no circumstance."
Just to clarify, are you saying that Colin Kaepernick is our starting quarterback moving forward? It's not a one-week thing?
"No, I wouldn't assume anything. I know you probably will. But, I would assume nothing."
With a young quarterback like Colin, do you have to be prepared for some bumps in the road?
"Like I said, we worry about everything as a coach. That's part of my job. But, as a coach and as a team we don't fear any moment or circumstance, or other man."
Is one of the things you worry about is that a guy that gets a concussion then might not tell you that he has a concussion because they don't want another situation like Alex is in?
"That would be something to worry about. I would never want that message sent to our players, no. Nor would that message ever be sent to our players."
Have you handled things adequately with Alex Smith in a coach-to-player sense?
"By whose standard?"
Do you feel like you're dangling his playing status week-to-week? Do you feel you're doing that and do you feel it's fair?
"Your words are 'dangling' and in your mind 'fair.' You make your own judgment. I've explained exactly what the decision has been made on and how I feel about both of our quarterbacks. And I've told you how our team feels about both quarterbacks. So, I feel like there's nothing more to add."
I know you don't like to peel back the onion. But, just emotionally for you, how difficult was this to make this decision?
"All these decisions are difficult. And you think through them the best you possibly can."
How did Alex handle the news?
"Alex is a class act all the way. He'll prepare as he is the starter. And that's what we would expect. And be ready to go in and play and contribute to this football team."
Is there a chance we'll see both of them on Sunday?
"Anything's a possibility. I would assume nothing, or rule out anything. Or would we want our opponent to rule anything out. And I think, again, we've plowed that ground about as thoroughly as it can be plowed."
One more. One of the things you often say is that you want to get one or two percent better every day, right? Is this decision part of that? Or would it be that way with both guys?
"I've explained exactly. I feel sometimes like I stand up here and talk to you and I can read your eyes. Thinking maybe you think I'm holding back. I'm not giving you something that's not there. I've given you everything that's there and explained it very well. I think I've explained it very well."
Do you think you'll win with both guys?
Do you think you can win with either guy?
"That's exactly what I said, yes."
You've talked a lot in the past about athletic instincts and how key they are in the quarterback position. Can you just assess a little bit about Colin Kaepernick and how he uses his athletic instincts?
"He's got very good athletic instincts. He's a very good athlete. You see it in practices. You see it in games."
Have you seen Colin close the gap with Alex over the course of the season, or was it really not until he got into the game where you kind of said, OK we have a guy that's maybe a better option at this point?
"I'm not going to compare the two. They're both good. They're both extremely good. They've both played good. Evidenced by their play."
I guess my question was, is this something you've seen in practice, or does the game really showcase that?
"I've seen it both in practice and in games, that Colin is playing good. I've seen that both in practice and in games that Alex is a very good player."
Did you tell them that it will be addressed each week, or just for now?
"Again, I think I've covered it and plowed that ground about as thoroughly as it can be plowed."
How did Colin get to be such a better, more accurate passer than he was last year? I assume that was a lot of work on his part. But, were there drills that you did, or that he did with certain guys that they worked on?
"Like any football player, practice. You don't get to Carnegie Hall without practicing."
Have you seen that, too? That his accuracy has improved even since training camp?
"Yeah, he's been improving. He's been getting better every single day."
How much of that do you think is knowing what he's doing more as a quarterback then just letting the physical take over because he's not having to think so much?
"He does a great job studying. It's both. It's physical and it's mental. He does a great job studying."
Beyond the 'he's got the hot hand,' what would you say made you choose Kaepernick over Smith for this? Could you elaborate on that a little bit?
"No, I think I've plowed that ground very thoroughly and told you exactly how I viewed it."
It's been a long time you, don't lose your position because of injury. This is against that. What was your thinking along those lines?
"I think we have two very good quarterbacks that it's a unique situation. You have two guys that you feel can win, have won for you. Two guys that deserve it. Two guys that have earned it. Alex over a long period of time. Colin by merits of the last three games."
You've seen Colin already against the Rams when he came in to relieve Alex. What do you like about that matchup? And what are some of the challenges about that matchup?
"Well, the Rams, it's a very challenging team defensively. You can say the strength is the defensive line, and it is a strength. But, the secondary is playing extremely well. The two corners are outstanding. The linebackers, they run and they're physical. And some of those same issues that we had the first time we played them, we're going to have to prepare for again. It's an outstanding defensive team."
Can you describe the personal and physical growth you've seen in Alex Smith in the past year since the beginning of last season?
"Just A-plus all the way, as a player and a person."
Why did you bring in K Billy Cundiff and K Nate Kaeding for a tryout?
"I think it'll probably be on the injury report that [K] David Akers is working through something and we want to make sure that we have a plan B."
What's your plan for that 53rd roster spot?
"We're still assessing that."
Anything you want to say about your new players, the new guys? How you plan to use them?
"No. Not really how we plan to use them. Who are you referring to?"
Well, you've got a new running back. You've got those guys. RB Jewel Hampton?
"Yeah, Jewel's been with us. He's not new."
Well, new on the—
"New on the 53? Yeah. Well, the sad thing right now for all of us is that two known friends and trusted agents, [WR] Kyle Williams and [RB] Kendall Hunter are going to be out for the season. And just two guys that our football team loves and loves competing with. And they'll be back. But, they're not going to be back this year. So, the next guy's got to step up. And that's partly what all of our running backs, [RB] Brandon Jacobs, [RB] LaMichael James, [RB] Anthony Dixon are going to have to do to fill that void that Kendall's leaving. We feel good about those guys."
What are your thoughts on extending LB NaVorro Bowman long term and just having him around here to solidify that defense with LB Joe Staley?
"Well, he's a true 49er. That's for sure. And he's a football player. And excited that he'll be with us long term."