Steve Young knows a thing or two about 49ers quarterback controversies and he saw another one brewing in San Francisco after Colin Kaepernick impressed in a 32-7 win over the Chicago Bears. Starting in place of Alex Smith, who missed the "Monday Night Football" tilt with a concussion, Kaepernick played with a poise that belied his lack of experience and a dynamism that left many fans wanting to see more.
In the first start of his career, the second-year signal caller out of Nevada completed 16 of 23 passing attempts for 243 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, the 2nd round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft is 32-49 in passing attempts for 449 yards through the air with 25 rushing attempts for 189 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
"It's everything I could've ever wished for," Kaepernick said of his breakout performance, via The Associated Press. "It feels great just to be out there."
The tour de force effort may have been even more than the 49ers coaching staff could have ever wished for -- or Smith wanted. After Kaepernick fired a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree early in the third quarter, staking the 49ers to a 27-0 lead, the talk turned to the nascent quarterback controversy at Candlestick. Asked who would start for the team at quarterback going forward, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh did nothing to quell the Smith-Kaepernick debate.
"[I] usually tend to go with the hot hand, and we've got two quarterbacks with hot hands," Harbaugh told reporters after the game. "We'll make that decision when we have to make it."
Upon hearing those remarks, Young thought Harbaugh's message was clear.
"The gauntlet is thrown down," the former 49ers QB proclaimed during the ESPN postgame show. "He wants Kaepernick to play. I can't look at it any other way. I want to look at it some other way."
Young's ESPN colleague -- and another former 49ers quarterback -- Trent Dilfer expressed a belief that Harbaugh "got stuck" and didn't mean to leave the door open to sitting Smith. The discussion among the ESPN talking heads only fueled the conversation already simmering on social media.
If the Bears can take any silver lining from this game, perhaps it is that they won't find a quarterback controversy waiting for them when they arrive back in Chicago. Reserve quarterback Jason Campbell was overrun by the 49ers' Smiths -- Jason and Aldon. The only quarterback in the game with any previous starting experience, Campbell struggled mightily against the formidable 49ers' defense, absorbing six sacks and throwing a pair of interceptions. Given the caliber of defense he was facing, Campbell's struggles were not unexpected in his first start since October 2011.
Of course, Kaepernick's impressive maiden start is all the more impressive when accounting for the caliber of defense that he faced. Through their first nine games, the Bears had not allowed more than 23 points to any opponent while holding three foes to single digits. Kaepernick became the first quarterback to face the Bears this season without surrendering an interception.
"I thought Colin did an outstanding job," Harbaugh gushed after the game. "He did a great job: poise in the pocket, pushing the ball, throwing with accuracy. He did a nice job running the game plan. Everything he did was exemplary, again. Really, [he] acquitted himself great."
After watching such an impressive performance, Harbaugh couldn't bring himself to affirm Smith's spot atop the 49ers' QB depth chart. Could you blame him? With Smith's status still hazy due to a concussion and the team facing a short week before facing the New Orleans Saints in the Big Easy, there seems to be a very good chance Kaepernick gets at least one more start.