Some of my readers feel I’ve taken a leap to say there’s a quarterback controvery, and if so, I apologize.
But please pay very close attention at the end, when a reporter, Eric Branch, asks if Harbaugh would still put his money on Alex Smith to be the starter when the regular season starts. Read closely Harbaugh’s response.
Here’s the transcript.
Q: What’s the current state of the quarterback situation?
Harbaugh: Like we’ve been saying, there’s competition at every position. Guys are going out and working and competing, and learning and getting reps. It’s more of a rep chart and this is a depth chart.
Q: Smith took a number of big hits last. Does that make you think harder about bringing a veteran backup in?
Harbaugh: That’s a possibility.
Q: What would have to happen?
Harbaugh: The right person available.
Q: How was quarterback play considering o line play?
Harbaugh: It wasn’t clean. It was difficult. We struggled, we struggled offensively. It is worrisome. You don’t like to see your quarterback get hit like that.
Q: What about Kaepernick? Did he get better as the game went on?
Harbaugh: I think Colin had an opportunity to have more reps. He had a chance to play and work on some of those mechanics of calling plays, getting up to the line of scrimmage, getting us out of the huddle, getting the snap off and the 40 second clock. Just go through the mechanics of playing quarterback.
Q: There was so much blitzing, but Kaepernick didn’t seem to lose his poise. Is that what you saw?
Harbaugh: I saw that from both our quarterbacks. I didn’t see them get rattled at all.
Q: Overall what was your impression of Kaepernick’s performance?
Harbaugh: It’s an offensive, defensive, special teams work in progress. Work to get better. All those little things. Playing together, playing as a unit. I think that showed up the most on the offensive side of the ball in this first game where there’s a level of each guy doing their job but also a level of confidence in working together. That will grow, that will get better. It got better last week. Had we played that game a week ago it was have been messier than it was the other night. I thought there was a level of execution that was raised dramatically in one week, so we’ll look for that same kind of improvement this week.
Q: Obviously, as a whole, your offensive line didn’t play well. Would you single out a player on the first or second unit who played particularly well?
Harbaugh: You make that statement, and by me even answering that seems to validate what you’re saying, so those are your words and I don’t agree with them that they didn’t play very well, so is there a specific question there without making a statement before you ask it?
Q: Who played particularly well on the offensive line?
Harbaugh: I think there was quite a number of guys that played well on certain downs. There’s other plays where it looks like a guy’s maybe not doing his assignment right because he’s the challenged player on that down, but it’s really an overall. Those guys have to work together. They have to have confidence in their assignment and know what each guy’s doing, where they’re working together. It’s more of a factor of that. Understanding what they have to do on each play and understanding how they have to work together. I think their confidence will grow. Individually, I thought our guys had their moments where they played very well.
Q: How much blitz pick up work have you been doing?
Harbaugh: We’re doing it every day.
Q: Is it surprising they didn’t do a better job?
Harbaugh: I think they’re getting better. Like I said, if you had seen us a week ago I think it would have been much messier, so we’ll just continue to work to get better at it.
Q: Would you say the starting role for quarterback is still up in the air?
Harbaugh: We’re evaluating daily and really it’s a mindset of letting the guys compete for it.
Q: Are you disappointed that Alex didn’t handle the blitz better?
Harbaugh: No I don’t think that he had an opportunity to …. I think he handled it as well as anybody could have. I don’t think that with the reps he had in there that he had an opportunity to handle any better than he did. There hasn’t been an opportunity so far to really be a clear cut difenitive winner in the quarterback competition, so we just forge ahead.
Q: Do you ever recall a team blitzing so much in a preseason game?
Harbaugh: I can recall that, yeah. Blitzing is a legal part of the game. It’s an opportunity for the offense to get a big play. What happened the other night was we were getting bruised. It was effective for the defense, and we didn’t answer. They’re going to continue to go with what’s working.
Q: Do you expect Oakland to do the same thing?
Harbaugh: Very possible. You can usually expect that when you’re not hitting them with a big play, making them pay for it. I think we can expect that until we do.
Q: How has Mays responded to trade talks?
Harbaugh: He’s responded well to it. He’s an example of a guy who’s looking to get better as well. Attitude-wise, work-ethic-wise, he’s been very positive.
Q: Has anything changed as far as his status with the team?
Harbaugh: Yeah, Taylor is a 49er, and he’s competing out there in practice, and in games, special teams, secondary, for a starting spot, for a sport to contribute in both those phases.
Q: What was good and not-so-good about Kaepernick’s performance?
Harbaugh: The thing that impressed me the most, the thing I feel the best about with Colin is he got himself into many situations in this game. Coming out after half, 2-minute drive, leading the team out of the huddle. So many things that are going to be good teachable moments from this game. Pretty much darn near every aspect of QB play. Run game mechanics, stepping up in the pocket, getting down when’s he scrambling. When to try to fit a ball into a tight window and when not to. So, there’s a lot of teachable moments from this game and that’s the thing I’m most excited about seeing him grow from.
Q: You said you were going to play your best five guys on the line. Is the only position up for grabs at center or are there more?
Harbaugh: We have had 12 practices, one preseason game, and all battles will rage on as we go. We’ll look at different combinations that include various spots on the offensive line.
Q: Aldon smith and chris culliver, how did they look?
Harbaugh: Same as I would say for Colin. Lot of teachable moments, both for Aldon and Chris on the defensive side of the ball and special teams. The three of those players, like all the players on our team, we’ve gotten them in hear for 12 practices, and you tell them what do, you show them what do, and then you let them go out and do, and you tell them what they did right and tell them what they did wrong and let them do again. That’s where we’re at. It’s with those three guys, it’s with everybody on our football time. I think those three guys in particular got a lot of work, got into a lot of situation, had a lot of teachable moment for this week.
Q: Going into training camp you said you’d put your money on Alex to win the starting job. Is that still your mindset?
Harbaugh: Yeah it would be right now. It’s letting that play out. I know as a quarterback when you’re competing for a starting job you’d like to make it clear cut. So far, it hasn’t had a chance to be clear cut yet, so we’ll just continue to practice. I don’t want those guys worrying about it. I want them practicing and working and not worrying. It will unfold.
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