How many incomplete passes from Alex Smith will it take for the head coach to yank him?
How many looks of indecision will Smith give him before Kaepernick starts?
How many times will he wish Andrew Luck was taking the snaps?
NFL conventional wisdom always has had the promising rookie quarterback waiting, developing, maturing. Don’t throw him in there right from the get-go like the Patriots did once to Jim Plunkett; took years for Plunk’s body and mind to get over the battering.
That’s conventional wisdom, of course. Harbaugh, on the other hand, is not a conventional guy, not afraid to push the outside of the envelope.
From the second the 49ers open practice the Alex-Colin dynamic is the elephant in the room. How much latitude will Harbaugh give Smith, if Kaepernick shows even the slightest amount of success?
If Harbaugh is too patient with Smith as he struggles, the vets on the team will shrug, sigh and begin to lose faith in their rookie coach.
If Harbaugh has a quick trigger with Smith, if he feels the impatience of fans drawing hot on his neck, he’ll alienate Smith if Harbaugh has to come back to him if Kaepernick struggles.
And if neither one work out, will people say, “Andrew Luck made Jim Harbaugh a better coach than he really is”?