On the same day he declined to publicly name a starting quarterback, 49ers">49ers coach Jim Harbaugh informed incumbent Alex Smith that Colin Kaepernick would get the nod Sunday at New Orleans, a source told SI.com.
"I'm going with Kaepernick," Harbaugh told Smith per the source. "Alex, I'm sorry."
Smith sat out Monday's 32-7 win over the Bears because of complications from a concussion he sustained against the Rams the previous game. Kaepernick subbed for him and was outstanding in his first career start, completing 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers and a 133.1 rating against a defense that began the night No. 1 in takeaways, No. 5 against the pass and 10th overall.
It's unclear whether Smith has been medically cleared to return, but the source said Harbaugh informed him that the decision was not health-related.
Earlier in the day, Harbaugh refused to go into detail regarding his QB situation.
"The way we view it right now is we have two quarterbacks that we're confident in, that have won for us and we believe in," he said. "To me, it's the opposite of a controversy. A controversy is an argument between opposing points of view. This is a decision that will be made from a team aspect, coming from the same direction."
Smith, who had completed 25 of last 27 passes over two games before being hurt, has been embattled almost from the moment he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2005. With seven coordinators in seven years, he struggled to flourish on the field. However last season, with Harbaugh embracing him in Harbaugh's first season, Smith had his best year and helped lead the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game, where they lost in overtime to the eventual champion Giants. This season, he has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,731 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also ranks third with a 104.1 rating.
Still, Kaepernick, a second-year pro who was drafted 36th overall, is thought to have more upside than Smith. He's the only player in Division I history to pass for 10,000 yards and rush for 4,000 in a career. At Nevada, he also was the first major-college player to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in three consecutive seasons.
Kaepernick appeared poised and confident on Monday night, showing both arm strength and touch on his passes. He also was spot on with his read progressions.
"It was A-plus-plus," Harbaugh said after watching film of the performance. "He did a great job. Decision-making, everything he did was in the high 90s. A+. "
That apparently was enough to earn him the nod Sunday.