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Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick: So now it really begins

We take a look at the 49ers budding potential quarterback controversy following Colin Kaepernick's huge game against the Chicago Bears.

Thearon W. Henderson

I don't even really know where to start with this. I don't eve know if there is a proper definition for "quarterback controversy", so feel free to chime in with your own definition. Since I started Niners Nation back in late 2006, there have been quarterback competitions, but prior to now, there was never really a quarterback controversy.

Oh sure, we could debate how much we wanted to see Shaun Hill or Troy Smith playing, but in my mind, a QB controversy is more legit when it involves viable options. I think people thought the Jets had a QB controversy in training camp, but Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow aren't any good. I think that's less QB controversy and more QB conundrum.

Since the wrap of Monday Night Football, and really since about midway through the first quarter, the controversy chatter has heated up. I don't think this is something divisive that can split the team at this point, but obviously there is some media/fan controversy surrounding the position. There was debate prior to Monday but it was not a controversy. Now, it's certainly getting at least a little bit controversial.

As I look ahead to the 49ers-Saints Week 12 matchup, and really even beyond that, I honestly have no clue what to make of the QB position. I can say that Colin Kaepernick put together a phenomenal performance against a previously highly regarded Bears defense. I can also say that Alex Smith has won a lot of games for this team and had not really done anything to prove worthy of losing his job.

The first big question right now is who will start against the Saints. After the game last night, Coach Harbaugh was asked about the QB position and who would be his starter moving forward. He said he usually goes with the guy who has the hot hand, but he also said that the team had two quarterbacks who have a hot hand. Kaepernick blew up the Bears, while Smith had led the 49ers to a 6-2-1 start (or 6-2, depending on who you would give credit to for the tie).

Harbaugh has shown he can be a bit sneaky when it comes to the information provided to the media. If he does view the team as having two hot hands, my gut tells me Smith is back starting once he is cleared by the neurologist. One of the common refrains I have noticed on Twitter is the idea that Smith would go back to starting, but have a very short leash.

I have to say that I am kind of glad I am not the one in the decision-making chair. If Alex Smith were cleared to play this Sunday, you could point to plenty of arguments for both guys to be the starting quarterback. For Colin Kaepernick, it's as simple as looking at his dominant performance on Monday. Even if the Bears were not completely prepared for the 49ers game plan, they are still an athletic and talented defense that could make in-game adjustments. Kaepernick had his way with them, so could you imagine him taking on the awful Saints defense?

As for Smith, he has done nothing to lose his job (some of you likely disagree with that statement). He has not shown the flair that we saw from Kaepernick, but this team has won games with him. I have thought this team can win a Super Bowl with Alex Smith as the quarterback, and I still believe that. He does not have the same tools as Kaepernick, but the team has won with him and he has made plays for this team.

So what will it be? Does Alex Smith move back into the starting lineup once he is cleared, and then the QB battle is opened up in the offseason? Or has Colin Kaepernick bought himself another start?

This is difficult enough to figure out that I couldn't really even figure out the right question for the poll below. I'm asking a bit more of a hypothetical question, so take it how you want.

The 49ers released coach and player quotations after the game. Here are some comments from Coach Harbaugh and the players about Kaepernick's performance and the QB position moving forward:

Michael Crabtree:

On QB Colin Kaepernick:

"I'm not worried about Kap. Kap's a baller, he's a gamer, he knows one speed and that's go. We know that and like I said it was a great team win."

Until tonight had he ever told you he was frustrated at not getting to show his stuff?

"Never was frustrated, always been patient, great guy waiting his turn and when it came and they called his number he made something happen."

How is it different than playing for QB Alex Smith?

"Both good quarterbacks. Like I said we just play receiver, go out there and make plays. Whoever is behind the center, we are going out there to make plays."

Vernon Davis:

Do you expect Colin to sort of latch onto the starting job now?

"I don't know. That's up to the coaches. That's their decision. I'll let them decide and they always call the shots. So, it's all up to them."

If he did get the job, how would you feel about that? You've been probably one of the most loyal supporters of Alex Smith to this point. It's got to be tough for you?

"It is. It is. It's tough. Alex, he's a genuine guy. I've been here with him since day one and always supported him. But, Colin, he's the same way. Very humble heart, soft spoken and he wants to be great. But, I can't choose sides. I'm here to support either one of them."

What did you think of QB Colin Kaepernick?

"Colin is the man. I think Colin did a great job. I'm very proud of him. I take my hat off to him because he stepped up today. He did some great things out there to help us win this game."

After your last catch in the first quarter, I saw you walk up to him, put your hands together, and bow to Colin Kaepernick. What was that all about?

"Respect. I respect him. I love him. And I was just so proud of him at that moment because the ball that he threw me, it was one of those balls that you see [Patriots QB] Tom Brady throw. Second window, right on the money. I didn't expect the ball to come because we've ran that play quite a few times and the tight end usually doesn't get the ball on that play. But, he saw it and he just put it there."

Joe Staley:

On QB Colin Kaepernick's 57 yard pass to WR Kyle Williams:

"It was a great throw, a big catch. I was like, hey, here we go."

Was he getting excited?

"Yeah, he's very competitive. The bigger the moment, the more he steps up I think. I didn't think this moment was going to be too big for him. I didn't have any worries with that. We just knew we had to help him out up front. "

Tough time for QB Alex Smith, he was disappointed in not being able to play tonight, wanted to and now I don't know if things are more fluid or in flux? What do you overall make of the quarterback situation?

"I think right now we're in a situation where we have two great quarterbacks. We won tonight with Kaepernick and we've won a lot of games with Alex. And Alex has played great football for us. So it's not my spot to make decisions as far as that goes, who plays. I think we're in a great situation right now because we have two quarterbacks that we can play great football with."

Jonathan Goodwin:

On QB Colin Kaepernick:

"Like I said, the whole time he's been here he's always gotten reps in practice and I've always snapped to him so it's not a big change for me to have him in the game."

QB Alex Smith's last couple of appearances, he was pretty close to flawless before his injury. Kap, the way he played tonight, the offense as a whole, how efficient is it feeling for you right now?

"Great, especially after kind of being a little sluggish last week. It was good to come out and put a game like that together. Like you said, consistent, executing and now the goal is to do it the rest of the season."

Coming in with the first start for Colin, were you expecting to be so aggressive?

"He's always gotten reps in practice. He's had to learn the same gameplan every week. Early in the week that's kind of what went on, he still got his normal reps in practice. There weren't any changes in the gameplan made just because Colin was starting at quarterback. Hats off to him for studying and keeping up the pace the whole week and coming out and playing well."

Frank Gore:

How excited was [QB] Colin Kaepernick getting out there?

"He's used to playing in college, used to being the guy. He gave us an opportunity Monday night, a big game against a great defense, great team and he played great."

Do you think Colin Kaepernick made himself a starting job somewhere in his career in tonight's performance?

"I hope we keep him here. We have two good quarterbacks. You need two good quarterbacks, when you see what happened in Pittsburgh, two guys go down who do a great job. I hope he'll be here."

Kyle Williams:

I'm sure you were talking about QB Colin Kaepernick already, sorry to come up late and make you repeat, but expecting him to have success is one thing, but the way he came out in the first half did it blow your mind a little bit?

"A little bit. I know the talent that he has, we all know the talent that he has and what he is capable of. But, him just coming out there and just balling like that, making every throw, it's tough to say that you expected him to come in and make every single throw like he did. It seemed as if he couldn't miss. That's what you are looking for, really out of anybody. But, he came in and he looked comfortable. You would have thought he had started the whole time. He played great."

Carlos Rogers:

On the other side of the football, how do you think that QB Colin Kaepernick did tonight?

"He played real well, played aggressive, had no pressure on him, just had to come out there and play. That's what our offense needs to do to all of these team that are coming in and shutting them down, don't think our offense is as good as some of the other offenses. Just go at them. Just play, play free and that's what he did."