That was Harbaugh's way of denying that he had Kaepernick penciled in all along, and it also allowed him to insist that he still supports Smith.
But if you say it's about going with the hot hand, what happens when and if Kaepernick cools off?
What happens if defenses sit back in a deep zone-as St. Louis did-and dare Kaepernick to stay patient and make the short throws all game long?
If Harbaugh is true to his words, shouldn't he seriously consider putting Smith back out there at some point?
Monday, I asked Harbaugh directly if Smith could win the starting job back. And even though Harbaugh said that he could, just listen to the indirect way he said it.
“Alex is not out of this,” Harbaugh said. “He's won us a lot of football games.
”He's preparing himself to play in each of these games every single week. That's what his mindset has to be, as if he was the starting quarterback.“
In truth, Harbaugh has committed to Kaepernick in every way but by official pronouncement. You don't make this switch under these circumstances unless you're sure about Kaepernick.
And again, Harbaugh and his staff might be absolutely right about Kaepernick.
No doubt, he throws the deep ball beautifully, and, even in defeat, he broke off that breathtaking 50-yard fourth-quarter run.
”Thought he responded (after the misplays) with some big throws and some big plays,“ Harbaugh said.
But Smith made a lot of big throws and starred in a lot of big 49ers victories, too. Including a playoff victory not too long ago. And yet Smith's the one on the sideline now, while Kaepernick is at QB.
On Monday, Harbaugh insisted the move wasn't made just to get Kaepernick ready for January; it was made to win every game.
So far, the 49ers are 2-1 with Kaepernick at the helm, with an easy home game against Miami on Sunday and then two rough road games-at New England and at Seattle.
Kaepernick almost certainly will be the QB for all of those games, as the 49ers vie for NFC playoff positioning ”& and to stay ahead of the Seahawks in the NFC West.
It's up to Harbaugh to make sure Kaepernick is ready for this; it's Harbaugh's responsibility to make sure his risky decision doesn't scramble up the season.
It's all tied to one position, one decision, and the coach who is responsible for it all.