Around the NFC West: Harbaugh's options

Around the NFC West: Nov. 21, 2012

San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh generally holds a news conference at team headquarters one day after games.

This week, with the 49ers playing Monday night, the team said Harbaugh would be available via conference call at 4:30 p.m. PT Tuesday.

Then, at 4:33 p.m., the team sent out an email reading, "Coach Harbaugh will not be available to the media today as he is undergoing a follow-up evaluation to the procedure he received last week. Coach will be available, as usual, on Wednesday at noon in the media tent."

Harbaugh had a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. The cancellation of his news conference meant the quarterback-related comments Harbaugh had made Monday night would linger for another day. Those comments made it clear that Colin Kaepernick had played his way into the discussion to compete for the starting job with Alex Smith.

Harbaugh has usually been a staunch supporter of Smith. That doesn't mean Smith has a job for life. The team obviously trumps any single player. If Harbaugh thinks the team could be better with Kaepernick or anyone else in the lineup, he's not going to keep the status quo out of loyalty. That is not how the NFL works.

Smith has yet to pass concussion tests. There is no reason for Harbaugh to limit his options or further undermine Smith if Smith isn't even available to the team. The coach could have the best of both options, in my view, if he said Kaepernick would start until the team felt better about Smith's health, and that there simply wasn't a decision to make in the interim.