In the end, Jim Harbaugh’s big gamble came up 5 yards short.

The 49ers‘ head coach’s daring decision to switch starting quarterbacks in the middle of the season, fundamentally changing his team’s makeup, came up 5 yards short in New Orleans, where young Colin Kaepernick couldn’t quite will the franchise to a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title.

It was a bittersweet ending to a 2012 season that saw the 49ers ascend to the highest reaches of football, only to fall short. It has been 18 years since the 49ers stood atop the NFL, Lombardi Trophy in hand. With their 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the team from San Francisco will have to wait at least one more year to return to that mountaintop.

In the meantime, few can second-guess Harbaugh’s choice to promote Kaepernick. The versatile quarterback vindicated his coach’s confidence with electrifying, record-setting performances during the team’s run to the Super Bowl.

In the end, Harbaugh’s gamble would have gone down as a legendary coaching move … if it hadn’t come up 5 yards short.