MIAMI -- Some quick hits on the dawn on Week 13 . . .
An immeasurably sad crime in Kansas City on Saturday. There will be endless debate about whether or not the Chiefs and Panthers are doing the right thing by playing on Sunday. My overriding feeling on that is that, whatever the Chiefs players think is the right thing to do is the correct thing to do. But there is no "right" answer. None of it is "right". I wouldn't disagree with anyone who feels the game should have been postponed out of respect to the family of the slain girlfriend of Jovan Belcher and Belcher's family. If that was their wish. However, at this point, it's probably best to get the football game out of the way. Postponing it would merely create a maudlin media circus out of the crime. There will be more important things for the Chiefs players, coaches and staff to attend to this week and the sooner they can get to those the better.
Police in Kansas City reported that GM Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel intercepted Belcher when he arrived at the Chiefs' offices andprevented "further violence."Both men showed what kind of people they are by intervening in the situation. It was brave for them to do so but, knowing them as I do, they would never have considered doing anything but that, despite the fact Belcher was clearly dangerous and unstable given the events of the day.
Parallels have been drawn between Jim Harbaugh's controversial quarterback call in San Francisco and the decision Bill Belichick made in 2001 when he turned the reins over to Tom Brady. On the face of it, they're similar: The starter got hurt; the backup got the job and remained in place. But the similarities end there. In the case of Alex Smith, the supplanted starter, you have a quarterback the Niners have been angling to replace despite Smith's efficiency and success. Prior to Belichick taking over in New England, Bledsoe was an untouchable. And ownership had rewarded Bledsoe with a massive, 10-year contract just months before he went down in the season's second game. Meanwhile, Smith has played about as well as he could since the start of 2011. In the Patriots' case, Bledsoe was in decline and had played poorly throughout the 2001 preseason and the first two games of 2001. Brady submitted weeks of competent play before Bledsoe was ready to return and reclaim -- as Bledsoe put it -- "my job." Kaepernick had one good start while Smith was still recovering from his concussion then another good start after Smith was cleared to play.
Is San Francisco making the right call? What we haven't seen is probably what made Harbaugh feel confident in his decision: Practice reps by Kaepernick that made his upside unmistakeable in relation to Smith. Kaepernick has a higher ceiling. Smith is a good NFL quarterback. But he isn't likely to win games for you on his own. He's a cog in the machine. The dual threat ability of Kaepernick to run, to move, to create and be a more explosive thrower than Smith tips the scales. Kaepernick is bound to have a bad day and make mistakes Smith wouldn't because Smith -- by dint of having been in the league longer -- has already learned how to handle some situations Kaepernick hasn't yet encountered. There will be pressure on Harbaugh when Kaepernick falters to decide whether he rides out the missteps or goes back to Smith. Personally, I don't think it's an awful thing if Harbaugh goes back to Smith later. There's a perception -- often espoused by former quarterbacks -- that the position requires a commitment from the sidelines and that a quarterback can't play while looking over his shoulder. I kinda think competition is good and it should sharpen the focus of whoever is on the field, not serve as a distraction. If Smith or Kaepernick play scared because they may get the hook, do you really want them to be your quarterback anyway?