Playing the helpful teammate was particularly difficult for Bledsoe, who’d been the starter for eight years and had signed a $100 million contract during the offseason, but he followed the script as written, even after he went back to the sideline for the Super Bowl after coming in when Brady hurt his ankle to direct the Patriots to victory over the Steelers in the AFC title match. “I had great support from all of the quarterbacks, especially Drew, at the time,” recalled Brady, who was standing next to Bledsoe when Adam Vinatieri kicked the historic field goal against the favored Rams that gave New England its first championship.
Smith may not be enthralled with his unhelmeted status but he accepts the assignment. “He’s been great,” said Kaepernick. “He’s helped me with everything I’ve asked. Even on the sideline he’s gone over looks with me, making sure I’m seeing everything.”
The 49ers have a long history of multiple quarterbacks. Frankie Albert shared the job with Y.A. Tittle, Tittle with John Brodie, Brodie with Steve Spurrier. So nobody was shocked when the Niners took Kaepernick in the second round in the 2011 draft. He’d been the feared gunslinger in Nevada’s pistol offense, the only Bowl Subdivision quarterback ever to pass for 10,000 yards and rush for 4,000 in a career. Kaepernick ran and threw for 420 yards and five touchdowns in his starting debut, an epic 69-67, four-overtime shootout loss to Boise State. As a senior he rallied the Wolf Pack from 17 points down to the 34-31 overtime victory that ended Boise State’s 24-game winning streak on “Blue Friday.”
Kaepernick was a game-breaker and playing for Harbaugh, who called NFL signals for 14 years, it was inevitable that he would see the field before long.
So far, Kaepernick has come as advertised. “He’s playing with a lot of poise and is beyond his years,” said Harbaugh. “He’s produced. He’s made big plays with his arm and his feet and with his mind.”
Kaepernick is spare enough with his sentences that they won’t violate a play clock. “What you see is what he is and who he is,” reckoned Harbaugh. “I would call him a man of enough words. There’s no fluff.”
Aldon Smith, the Niners’ two-fisted linebacker, won’t play catch with Kaepernick anymore. “I can hear the ball coming before it gets to me,” Smith told him.
Randy Moss, who has caught 975 balls in his career, had a finger dislocated by what he called Kaepernick’s “Randy Johnson fastball.” “It hurt, it really did,” testified Moss. “I tried not to show any tears. I don’t know if they caught me crying or not.”
What sets Kaepernick apart, though, is his running. Last week, needing a first down to ice a victory against the Dolphins with two minutes to play, he took off for a 50-yard touchdown, the longest by a quarterback in franchise history.
“He read it real good,” said Frank Gore, the 49ers’ perennial 1,000-yard running back. “Everybody came to me and Mr. Everything did his thing.”
It wasn’t long ago that Alex Smith was Mr. Everything in St. Francis’s town, and he may be again.
This week, as for the last four, the huddle belongs to Kaepernick, and likely will as long as the Ws keep coming.
“That’s the only thing we’re really here for, is to win,” Belichick mused. “What else is there? I don’t know. What else is there to talk about?”
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.