One loss into the Colin Kaepernick era in San Francisco and blame is spread around like the 8-3-1 team just lost an actual meaningful game.
The blame for the 49ers’ 16-13 overtime loss to the Rams on Sunday can be found placed on offensive coordinator Greg Roman for the less than creative play-calling, Jim Harbaugh for allowing the poor option play call that eventually led to the defeat, Delanie Walker’s dropped guarantee on a touchdown and Kaepernick himself. Suddenly, the 49ers have problems, and potentially even bigger ones if things continue to go wrong in the coming weeks.
However, the issue that will continue to chip away at the 49ers is the one that may currently be the most sensitive. The blame on Kaepernick is a topic the 49ers cannot get away from, and it will potentially lead to a divided locker room, if it has not already.
Every loss under Kaepernick is another second guess from the fans and the team in the locker room. Alex Smith and the quarterback controversy is alive and well in San Francisco until Kaepernick and the 49ers book their flights for the Super Bowl.
Smith and the 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship last season, and only a trip to the Super Bowl with Kaepernick makes Harbaugh’s midseason change under center a success.
The first inklings of a divided locker room have already emerged. Before Kaepernick’s start against the Rams, Vernon Davis came forward and said he still felt like Smith was the starting quarterback. But after Sunday’s loss to the Rams, a report of Joe Staley’s reaction to the quarterback situation may have been speaking for the entire 49ers locker room.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Staley is not too happy with Harbaugh’s decision at who is currently playing quarterback for the 49ers.
“It’s not just 49ers fans who have gotten emotional about the decision to bench Alex Smith and start Colin Kaepernick.
“It turns out that offensive tackle Joe Staley has as well. One day during practice last week when 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh noticed Staley seemed down, he pulled him aside, and the two had a discussion about it.
“Staley explained that Alex Smith is his best friend, somebody he had blocked for throughout his entire career and he was disappointed to see Smith treated the way he was.
“Harbaugh explained why he made the decision that he did to Staley. It’s not that Staley didn’t believe that Kaepernick could do the job, but he felt that strongly about his friendship for Smith and the job that he has done.
“It just goes to show you that there is more emotion involved in a simple decision than to just go with Colin Kaepernick at this point in time.”
Staley has the right to be unhappy with the way Smith was demoted. Staley and Smith are known to be good friends, and Smith lost his job because he had a concussion. Judging by Staley’s role in the locker room, it is safe to assume he is not the only player feeling this way.
It does not negate the fact that Kaepernick is the better option at quarterback, though. Opposing coaches would rather prepare for a safe passer that does not take chances down field than a mobile quarterback with a shotgun for an arm.
However, the 49ers are still in the midst of a quarterback controversy, despite Harbaugh already naming Kaepernick the starter for next week’s game against the Dolphins.
When asked Monday whether Smith still has a chance to regain his starting job with the team, Harbaugh was not so quick to shut the door on the idea, per the San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami.
"Alex is not out of this. We feel like Alex, we’ve said it before, he is one of our guys.
"He’s won us a lot of football games. He’s preparing himself to play in each of these games every single week. That’s what his mindset has to be, as if he was the starting quarterback. So, that’s what we expect and knowing Alex that’s what he is going to do."
For now, which quarterback will play under center remains decided on a week-by-week basis, whether Harbaugh admits that or not. Another loss for Kaepernick is another second-guessing of Harbaugh’s decision -- Harbaugh knows this and the players know this.
It was a risky decision for Harbaugh to name Kaepernick the starter after Smith came off a concussion. If all goes well and the 49ers march into the playoffs with high marks, then it may be Harbaugh’s best decision to date. But if the 49ers stumble into the playoffs with Kaepernick at the helm and things get worse, then Harbaugh’s credibility and reliability may have taken a serious hit with the team on the field and in the locker room.