Jim Harbaugh’s decision to start Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith is a controversial decision.
Not controversial in the sense of QB controversy, but rather setting a tone that could lead injured players to make poor decisions in the future.
Smith lost his job to Kaepernick after suffering a concussion. Smith followed the NFL’s protocol and was unable to get cleared medically prior to the 49ers’ Monday Night Football game versus the Chicago Bears.
Kaepernick used his opportunity to showcase his abilities, and he ultimately won the starting QB job.
Now, this has happened many times before. Brett Favre began his record of 297 consecutive regular season starts after replacing an injured Don Majkowski. And in baseball, a guy named Lou Gehrig played every game for 14 years after replacing an ailing Wally Pipp.
I have no problem with Kapernick replacing Smith if he is the better option at quarterback.
I take issue with the fact that the NFL wants you to believe they have the players’ best interest in mind when it comes to concussions and other head injuries.
But when a player loses his starting job due to a head injury, it could prompt other players to mislead medical staff when taking concussion tests.
If Smith never takes another snap in San Francisco, don’t be surprised if players intentionally score poorly on their preseason concussion evaluations. This could give concussed players a better chance of passing their tests later in the season in order to get back on the field quickly.
Smith – who completed 25 of his last 27 passes before being injured and only lost once this season – did things the right way, and finds himself on the sideline holding a clipboard.
Don’t be surprised if other players risk their long-term health in order to avoid the same fate. Sure, it’s not a prudent move when looking to the future. But losing a starting in position in the NFL can mean the loss of millions of dollars.
If Kaepernick outperforms Smith in practice on a regular basis, he should get a chance to play. But Smith should not be punished for sustaining an injury.
Smith did the responsible thing and should be rewarded for doing so.