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49ers QB situation: Jim Harbaugh sees no competitive advantage to releasing name

We break down Jim Harbaugh's Friday comments about the 49ers quarterback situation, and who will start on Sunday against the Saints.

Ezra Shaw

As I think most of the free world probably expected, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh did not release the name of the 49ers starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. I imagine a few people might have thought he'd drop a name, but I think most of us know that is not Coach Harbaugh's style. Although, as someone pointed out in a comment earlier this week, it would have been funny to see him walk up, say "Scott Tolzien", then drop the mic and walk away.

Coach Harbaugh was actually quite honest about not providing a name. As he put it, there is no competitive advantage to be gained by releasing the name of the 49ers starting quarterback. While Donte Whitner may have released the name on his own, and I think most of us figure Colin Kaepernick to be the guy anyway this week, we will still technically be waiting for more information.

Alex Smith was in the black no-contact jersey once again today. Coach Harbaugh indicated during his press conference that Smith had undergone the final test today, and if he had no symptoms tomorrow, he would be cleared to play. That does leave open the possibility of playing, but given what has been another week of limited play, I highly doubt he plays on Sunday.

Of course then the question is whether he is even active or not. The 49ers went with Kaepernick and Tolzien last week, in part because Smith was still dealing with symptoms. My guess is that if Smith is medically cleared, he will be the backup this week.

If Kaepernick has a solid game against New Orleans, he continues on with the job. If Kaepernick struggles, I actually think it's relatively easy to go back to Smith next week against the Rams. I figure that if Kaepernick struggles and Smith has been medically cleared, Coach Harbaugh can simply say he did not think he was able to be sufficiently prepared, and so getting Kaep all the first team reps and the start was the smarter play in case Smith's symptoms returned. And if Kaepernick plays well, Harbaugh can continue going with his "hot hand".

For now though, I suspect the very earliest we'll hear about the starting quarterback is either late Saturday or early Sunday morning.