Harbaugh's QB decision all about playoffs, Super Bowl


Harbaugh's QB decision all about playoffs, Super Bowl

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Watch Jim Harbaugh's Wednesday press conference live on CSNBayArea.com at 11:55am. He is expected to announce who will start at QB this Sunday vs. the Rams.

Coach Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday is expected to supply the answer to the question, Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick?In order to answer that question, though, Harbaugh first had to ask himself something else.Which quarterback gives the 49ers the best chance to advance in the playoffs this season and win the Super Bowl?That's it. That's all that matters.This is not about which quarterback gives the 49ers the best chance to win Sunday in St. Louis or the following week against the Miami Dolphins. This is all about winning the Super Bowl on the first Sunday in February.
Oh, sure, there are smaller parts to the puzzle, such as . . . Which quarterback can make all the throws? Which quarterback is a better decision-maker? Which quarterback can keep plays alive with his feet? Which quarterback can make the better pre-snap reads to get the offense into the best plays?But it all comes down to whether Harbaugh believes Kaepernick, with another five regular-season games as a starter, will be better able to lead the 49ers into the playoffs than Smith.Perhaps, there's no wrong answer.Perhaps, there's no right answer, either.RELATED: 49ers' Walker expecting Alex Smith to start Sunday
This is not about what's fair. If that's the case, Smith would get his job back after being sidelined with a concussion. This is not about loyalty. This is not about building for 2013 and beyond. This is not about making sure the 49ers get some return on their investment to trade up in the second round for Kaepernick.It's all about the cold reality of winning football games.It would seem that Harbaugh telegraphed his intentions after Kaepernick's breakout performance against the Chicago Bears. The coach who all along had stated Alex Smith was his guy, was suddenly noncommittal about declaring Smith as his starter when he got healthy.Even with the answer for today, it does not mean that things will not change before the playoffs begin. (And the 49ers are definitely going to the playoffs with a 2 12-game lead in the NFC West.)If Harbaugh goes with Kaepernick, he must be prepared for a bump or two in the final five regular-season games. After all, he's a young guy with tons of potential who is still learning on the job. But if Harbaugh sticks with the veteran, Smith will be on a short leash after Kaepernick had his opportunity to show what he can do.

Reuben Foster ready for leadership role with 49ers


Reuben Foster ready for leadership role with 49ers

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ pass coverage from their linebackers has been a disaster this season.

But help is on the way, as rookie Reuben Foster is expected to return to action Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys after sustaining a high right ankle sprain just 11 plays into the season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 10.

“He’s been battling to get back,” 49ers Kyle Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area.

“He’s been hitting the rehab hard. We’ve had him out here for two weeks of practice, and I think he had his best week of practice. This week was much better than last week. I’m excited to get him out there.”

Last week, the 49ers cut veteran NaVorro Bowman, leaving Ray-Ray Armstrong and Brock Coyle as the starting inside linebackers. They were overmatched in the 49ers' 26-24 loss at Washington.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins looked no further than his running backs in the passing game, as Chris Thompson caught four passes for 105 yards and Samaje Perine had three receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown.

The 49ers expect Foster to provide an immediate upgrade with no expectations of perfection.

“It’s going to be his first time playing in a while,” Shanahan said. “I know there are going to be some bumps in the road. But I think he’ll have a big impact on our defense and our team overall.”

Foster will take over at Bowman’s middle linebacker position and be responsible for communicating the play calls and adjustments to the rest of the defense. Shanahan said Foster is ready to handle the important role.

“That’s the one thing that’s been the most impressive about him,” Shanahan said. “Everyone can see stuff on tape that’s impressive. But we didn’t know how much command he’d have until he got here. And from the first day of OTAs through training camp -- even walk-throughs when he was hurt -- when he gets in there, he speaks that language. He takes control and people listen to him.”

Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions


Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions

SANTA CLARA – While rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard is taking a micro view of his promotion, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is not shy about admitting he is looking at the big picture.

Shanahan said how Beathard performs after replacing Brian Hoyer as starting quarterback will have “a ton” of influence on how the 49ers proceed during the offseason.

After all, the 49ers know every position will come under tremendous scrutiny as the organization looks to add the pieces that will make the club competitive.

“That’s for every position. That’s for every player on our team. That’s for every coach on our team,” Shanahan said. “We’re 0-6, and that’s extremely tough. But I’m extremely excited about this place and excited about where we’re at and where we’re going. There’s not a moment that I don’t waste thinking about that stuff.”

Beathard will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium.

Hoyer failed in his bid to earn consideration as the 49ers’ quarterback for the remainder of this season and beyond during his six starts. Hoyer completed just 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 74.1.

Now, Beathard gets his chance. But he said he is not thinking about the big picture and what it might mean for the future.

“I’m really just trying to take it one day, one week at a time,” Beathard said. “I’m not looking that far ahead. Right now, my focus is on today’s practice and geared towards beating the Cowboys and doing the best we can to get better and improve.”

Beathard was pressed into action last week when Hoyer’s struggles continued at Washngton. Beathard stepped in and completed 19 of 36 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception. For the first time, Beathard is getting the first-team practice snaps with a game plan that is designed specifically for him.

Said Beathard, “Getting those extra reps, reps with guys that you don’t usually throw to, in the huddle with the guys that are out there, I think it’ll help a lot.”