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Sliding Doors: Colin Kaepernick, Jim Harbaugh and Super Bowl 47

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The NFL has one champion at the end of season, and the rest of the league is left to ponder what could have been. It is all woulda, coulda, shoulda chatter, but it is still something that can help us while away the days until the next season arrives. Recently I asked for questions for a potential Niners Nation mailbag, and I got this one that I found particularly interesting. For those that don't know about "Sliding Doors", it is a movie that alternates between two parallel universes based on the two main characters and whether or not one catches a train. Essentially, the idea of one single moment forever changing the future.

There has been plenty of debate over what would have happened if Alex Smith did not suffer his concussion against the Rams. One area where this can also be applied is the quarterback run that did not happen near the end of the Super Bowl. Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers lined up and were set to execute a QB run against the Baltimore Ravens. There was no guarantee that Kap would have gotten into the end zone, but there was definitely an opportunity there. The play clock wound down to zero, and Jim Harbaugh called a timeout as Kap hiked the ball. I went back to the video, and there was a flag thrown, but the ref said the timeout came before the flag was thrown. The play was whistled dead, and the 49ers three two more incompletions after that.

We can always assume the Ravens would have somehow stopped Kap and still won the Super Bowl, but for our Sliding Doors purposes, let's assume Kap scores that touchdown and the 49ers win the Super Bowl. I think we have avoided talking about that hypothetical given the pain of that loss, but it still interesting to consider what could have been.

If Kap scores that touchdown and the 49ers win the game, he is probably named Super Bowl MVP. We don't know exactly where Kap stands in his career arc. He has 2.5 seasons of starting time under his belt. He is working on improving his technique. But when he is retired and we are looking back on Kap's NFL career, we don't know what the discussion will be. It could be the physically gifted quarterback who never reached his potential, it could be a Hall of Fame quarterback who became one of the all time greats, or it could be somewhere in between.

Had Kap scored that touchdown, it is fascinating to consider where he would be at in his career. How would his contract extension look like? Or would he have even been able to work out a contract extension? I suspect an MVP performance would have made negotiations a little trickier. Would we have seen him working with Kurt Warner this offseason, looking to improve his technique, or would a Super Bowl victory have justified to him and the coaching staff that they were on to something?

The coaching staff is the other big what if from this hypothetical. Plenty of things could have changed, but the easiest to discuss are the future of Kap and the future of Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers went to three NFC title games and one Super Bowl under Jim Harbaugh, but came up heartbreakingly short all three years. Had they won a Super Bowl, does Jim Harbaugh get an extension that offseason?

He would seemingly have held all the leverage. I imagine the 49ers already knew in early 2013 that Harbaugh was a tough guy to work with, but would they have been a little more amenable to an extension? And of course, would Jim Harbaugh have wanted one if the numbers were right?

My guess is Harbaugh would have gotten an extension. The reported debate on Harbaugh's salary was that he wanted to be the highest paid coach in the NFL, and the 49ers did not want to pay him that because the team did not win a Super Bowl. We'll probably never know how true that is, but had the 49ers won the Super Bowl, the odds likely increase significantly that Harbaugh gets a big raise. It would very hard for the 49ers to not give him a sizable raise with an NFC title game and Lombardi Trophy under his belt through his first two years.

Of course, none of this happened, and most of us have slowly moved past it. But given how the Jim Harbaugh era ended in San Francisco, it is fascinating to consider.