You might read Jim Harbaugh's words differently, but I was there, and asking questions, and everything he said continued to point to Colin Kaepernick as the 49ers' starting QB on Sunday and into the future.
Yes, even Harbaugh saying the words "Alex Smith is our starting quarterback." That's the weird world of the 49ers, because I happen to think those words especially mean that Kaepernick is the starter.
Why say Smith is the starter and then say that you won't name the starter until Wednesday?
Because Harbaugh finally was getting around to giving a nod to Smith's accomplishments and gracious behavior, because Harbaugh didn't like Troy Aikman's generally pro-Alex commentary during yesterday's broadcast...
And because Smith's "starting" status is now mostly symbolic. You say it when it's mostly not true, because you want to boost him up a little before the Wednesday announcement of Kaepernick.
That's my read. You might read it differently.
To the transcript. done by me and several of us who attended the presser...
JIM HARBAUGH presser transcript/
-Opening statement: Good to be back and a lot of positives from this game; like we thought watching the game live, one of the hardest-hitting games of the season, both teams. Proud of our guys in so many different areas.
We're ready to analyze it with them and move forward and see if we can't get a little bit better. But really proud of the win and the way our guys competed.
-Q: Any update on injuries from yesterday—particularly Kyle Williams?
-HARBAUGH: We'll see. We haven't got the final report and we'd wait 'til we get that before we brief Kyle and some of the others.
It was a hard-hitting game. It took a toll.
-Q: Did Kyle get hurt without contact? It looked like his foot got stuck and that's how it happened, is that how it looked to you?
-HARBAUGH: Yeah, it sure did. It appears that way, appears that way, before contact was made. Foot in the ground, injury.
-Q: Are you going to announce your QB for Sunday? Or will you decide that later this week?
-HARBAUGH: Won't today. Won't today. As you know, it's a players day off. Continue to consider it and wouldn't announce anything before we had a chance to talk to our players.
-Q: What goes into this decision? Is it based on practices, is it based on the opponent? Is it a week-to-week thing or maybe is about to be permanent?
-HARBAUGH: Fair question. I think it starts with this week, this game, what gives our team the best chance to win this game, like it would at any position.
Further, fair question to ask, what goes into it? And my answer is this: Alex Smith is our starting quarterback. He has not done anything to lose that job. In fact, he's playing at a very high level.
Also Colin Kaepernick, you can't categorize him as a back-up quarterback, because he's started games and played very well in those games.
So in a unique situation, you have two quarterbacks that are playing at a very high level. One's your captain, your starting quarterback. The other has played great football the last three football games.
Both have a hot hand. So it's unique. It's not unique to football, it's not even unique to our team. We have Frank and Kendall, last year you had Parys and Aldon.
It's not unique there—that's shared. That is a shared... this season the quarterback position has been shared. And at the end of the season, you look back on it, say, that was shared.
So I think the thing that's best for us, we've got two good guys.
-Q: With that position specifically, do you need to make a call—this is our guy, like you did with Alex at the beginning of last year?
-HARBAUGH: Well, they're both our guys.
Q: Your starter. The guy who will start and finish the game and play all the important snaps.
-HARBAUGH: Yeah, and it takes before that. It takes place during the week, as you determine who gets the majority of the reps. You want the guy who's going to start the game and play the majority of the game to get the majority of those practice reps.
So it's not so much determined in practice—like, 'hey, it's an open competition out there on Wednesday'—because you kind of have to go a direction and to make sure that guy, that quarterback's going to get the majority of the reps.
The other situation I think that will probably be different than last week is we will say who that quarterback is probably Wednesday. And the biggest reason is so our players aren't all pressured to, 'who is it?' Everybody hammering them for the information.
I think in my mind that's the direction we'll go.
-Q: You mention getting better. After watching the tape of yesterday's game in what ways do you think Colin is getting better? Or did he?
-HARBAUGH: Well, first and foremost, just great in terms of his personal development and for our team to play in a really hostile environment in New Orleans. It was loud-loud there.
Against a team that was fighting for their playoff lives, just like we're fighting for our playoff lives, and both teams just poured their guts out in that football game, a real road playoff atmosphere.
I thought that... the improvement was there just that he was there, you know? Just that he was even playing in that game was big for him and for our team. And acquitted himself very well.
-Q: You gave him an A-plus-plus last time, how about this one?
-HARBAUGH: Winning effort in a very, very tough environment. I thought he made some outstanding plays, as did so many guys on our team.
That gives me an opening really to talk a little bit about Ahmad Brooks and the play that he made — the catch to start with, and to finish it with the run. He just looked like he exploded off of that.
The pressure that we got on the quarterback of New Orleans. Heard some statistics, and only a handful of times has he been sacked five times in a game. Everybody, Ray McDonald getting pushed, Justin Smith getting pushed, Aldon, Ahmad, again the two inside linebackers played extremely well.
How do you know if you're a good defense? You tackle. How do you know if you're ready to play in a game? You tackle. This game, like the Bears game, there might have been a missed tackle, there might have been two. Haven't gone all the way through it.
In the Bears game, there was one missed tackle. Also, there were no missed tackles that allowed yards after the catch. Every time we had a chance to combat a receiver after he caught the ball, there were no yards after the catch.
That's huge, especially when you're talking about a guy like Darren Sproles having the ball, not to mention Colston and the others and Graham. It wasn't always picture perfect. Donte Whitner gets Sproles down in the open field, it almsot looked like he was going to be able to squirm loose from it but Donte found a way to get him on the ground.
You saw Aldon make the play in the boundry where he flipped him over the top of him and just stayed with him, contorted his body and made a tremendous play. Goldson, Whitner again, excellent tackling. Really pleased with that.
Offensively, thought there were some things we could improve on. We took some big yardage chunks off our side of the ledger with callst that were made, not just the penalty yards but the play that resolved from them.
But no drive bigger than the one to get the field goal toward the end of the game. Nine and a half minutes, 16 or 15 play drive, when you need it most. Awesome, big drive in the third quarter, and a really good drive to put the first points on the board. And a clean drive when you're not making penalties or mistakes, really showed what our offense can do.
-Q: You mentioned that Alex hasn't done anything to lose this job. How understanding are you of his situation — 13-3 last year, wins a playoff game, 7-2 this season, gets hurt and then doesn't start. How much of your feelings go to him in this situation?
-HARBAUGH: The position you're in, I understand that part, the position you're in.
The guys will be hammered. You go to Colin, you go to Alex. 'Should you be the starter?' He's got no good answer for you.
He says, 'Yes, I should be the starter'— we're talking either one — and you look like you're just building up yourself. If you say no, then they hammer you because you don't think you should be the starter.
Then the people, so-called subject matter experts, who talk about, 'You should be making a fuss about it or a stink about it, you shouldn't be that accommodating,' it sends a completely wrong message, to me, for young athletes out there, or high school quarterbacks, where their coach is trying to tell them it's about the team and all of us working together.
So that one gets me upset. That's not what our two guys are about. They're great team guys, great example guys, and we need them both.
The other thing I don't relate to is the situation they're in, because they're both playing extremely well. Not to delve back into my own personal history, but anytime there was 'Who's going to start at quarterback this week,' my experience has been both guys were struggling, myself and somebody else were struggling at the time.
It was like, 'Who's struggling less? And we'll start them this week.' This is a unique situation, to my own experience, because both have played extremely well.
-Q: Aldon Smith is six sacks from tying Strahan from the alltime record. How cognizant of you are that and how much do you want to see him get there?
-HARBAUGH: You're happy anytime a guy has success. The thing that really gets you excited is when you're talking about the history of the game, or the history of the franchise. That's something accomplished by very few people, or very few units.
So you're happy for Aldon, our defensive unit, that team effort those men have done on that side of the ball. It's really a team thing. If you were to break it down to its fundamental core, it's a team thing where you can have that kind of success. But proud as heck for Aldon. Let's keep on truckin'.
-Q: [Follow-up question on Aldon Smith chasing the record.]
-HARBAUGH: You're talking about a team record, and effort, and it doesn't need to be compared with anything that happened in previous years, or with previous great players.
You're talking about great players who accomplished great things. It's great to be mentioned with that, but I think I can speak for Aldon for a minute: Statistics aren't what motivate him, it's winning games.
-Q: You referenced your personal history earlier. How did you handle that "Who's going to start this week?" question, and if you were in Alex's shoes — playing well — would you have handled this as gracefully as he has?
-HARBAUGH: He's a class act all the way — team player, that's why he has been voted captain by our players.
I don't personally like delving back into my past, or comparing it to these situations.
-Q: You brought it up.
-HARBAUGH: One reference doesn't mean I want to peel away the layers of the onion going back to childhood... I think we covered that quarterback ground as thoroughly as we can at this point.
-Q: Have you made up your mind yet (regarding starting QB)? How much of this is weighing on your mind every day?
-HARBAUGH: That's something that, again, we do as a team. There's accords and consensus. I talk to our coaches and watch and re-watch the tape and think it through.
-Q: Is there some unfinished business with Rams due to the way the last St. Louis game finished?
-HARBAUGH: Really have a whole new light on 'unfinished business.' I think of all this as new business.
-Q: What is the new business this week with the Rams?
-HARBAUGH: The new business is this game, this most important game because it's our next game. I just have really hard focus on that. It's not about unfinished business, it's about new business.
New business: Getting prepared to travel well, prepared to practice well and prepared to go there and do what it takes to be victorious.
-Q: Were there any possible packages for Alex on Sunday or was it all Kaepernick once he started?
-HARBAUGH: Anything is always a possibility and wouldn't talk about what we would have done, what we would do...
-Q: But was there something generally?
-HARBAUGH: Yeah. Everything is a possibility.
-Q: Was the decision to have Brandon Jacobs healthy based on Will Tukafu's injury or a schematic decision?
-HARBAUGH: From a schematic standpoint.
-Q: Has he shown in practice he's ready when called upon?
-HARBAUGH: I think you saw him in the game, he had two carries, one where he really worked his way for a three- or four-yard first down and we had a penalty on that play as well.
Yeah, he's been doing some good things and showing some good things, yeah.
-Q: Is Alex Smith's health not an issue anymore? Is that fully resolved?
-HARBAUGH: I feel good about that. Yeah, I feel good about that now.
-Q: Given the injuries, is there a good chance A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James see some active duty Sunday?
-HARBAUGH: "There's a good chance there'll be some new active guys on Sunday, yeah.
I send that message to some of our young guys, some of our inactive guys that the opportunity is coming. You say that every week to them, 'Be prepared, be prepared.'
You'd rather be prepared for your opportunity and have it not come than have your opportunity come and not be prepared.
To both those youngsters' credit, and others, who have been working extremely hard for their opportunity and we feel good and excited that a couple of those youngsters will get that opportunity.
-Q: How ready are LaMichael James and A.J. Jenkins? Do you feel comfortable if
they are thrown in there?
-HARBAUGH: I totally... I know what you just asked, but I was so mesmerized and dazzled by your voice right there. You've got a great voice.
-Q: Thank you very much. How ready are Jenkins and James? Do you feel good about those guys?
-HARBAUGH: I do. I do. I do. I feel good about both those guys and a couple others that might get a shot as well.