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Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers show us that the NFL is a business

San Francisco 49ers head coach made a surprise midseason change at quarterback. We discuss the situation, as well as the possible implications.

Ezra Shaw

Rule No. 1: Football is a business.

It seems that everyday the NFL reminds us that it's a high-functioning business. It's easy to get lost in the glamour because more often than not, we enjoy it for the attraction that it is.

But people's lives are in the balance as the puppet masters that are coaches and general managers orchestrate their careers.

On Thursday night, news broke that Colin Kaepernick would be starting in place of Alex Smith versus the New Orleans Saints this week. SI's Jim Trotter leaked the information via Twitter, adding that the decision was not based on health.

Earlier in the week, head coach Jim Harbaugh even said he thought Smith would be cleared to play this week.

This move, however imminent, is not permanent. Harbaugh mentioned going with the "hot hand" so if Kaepernick struggles, he will not hesitate to put Smith back in the lineup. But this is a significant move that carries a lot of implications.

With Kaepernick being named the starter for now, what will it take for him to go back to No. 2?

In San Francisco's remaining schedule, he will face some real challenges in New Orleans, New England and Seattle. If he gets through that and still has Harbaugh thinking he has that hot hand, what does that mean for the postseason and potentially a Super Bowl?

The 49ers are a top-ranked team and a recurring favorite in the Super Bowl discussion, so these are relevant questions.

A lot of these doors lead to the official exit of the Alex Smith era in San Francisco.

One has to think that Kaepernick was the long-term plan all along, despite the remarkable QB-coach relationship between Harbaugh and Smith. After signing a 5-year deal to be the 49ers head coach, Harbaugh used his second-ever draft choice on a quarterback.

That's right, the infamous QB guru hand-selected a passer early in the draft of which to build his new team around. A developmental player, Kaepernick was always in the background while the 49ers remained noncommittal with Smith (i.e. 3-year contract).

Steve Young, amongst numerous analysts believes that the organization is leaning toward Kaepernick long-term.

If this is indeed the case, San Francisco will likely opt out of Smith's deal, cutting loose of the $9.6 million they'd owe him and taking a $1 million penalty instead - ultimately saving a bundle of cash.

The 49ers made a business decision by going with Kaepernick this Sunday. If this works out, the team will no doubt move on from Smith, which is a strange reality. One has to really feel for the veteran quarterback in this scenario, who to no fault of his own, may be exiled for what everyone thinks might be the next best thing.

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