I find myself constantly defending Colin Kaepernick to 49ers fans. I never really considered myself a huge Kap supporter, but hearing the way other 9er fans talk about him, apparently I am. I still believe he’s a good quarterback, but after the first quarter of this season, I’m starting to question whether Kaepernick will ever be great, and if he’s really the best option at QB going into the future.
Somewhere within Kaepernick exists the best quarterback the league has ever seen. He has one the 5 strongest arms I’ve ever seen on a football field, maybe the strongest, and once he gets into his stride there are few players that can match his speed. He’s everything people got excited about Michael Vick about, only bigger, with more of a work ethic, and hopefully a significant amount less dog fighting. He’s a coach’s dream; he has all the physical skills in the world and a genuine desire to be great.
But something is off, and has been for long enough now that it’s a real problem. In defending Kaepernick I frequently remind people how young he is, how he’ll improve with more experience in the offense. But he’s not improving, he looks more skittish in the pocket than ever, and tucks the ball to run immediately if his first read isn’t there. The fact that the offensive line has offered him poor protection doesn’t help, but he should be past this by now (1). He doesn’t have much awareness in the pocket, or anywhere in the field really, and the play where he ran out of bounds four yards behind the line of scrimmage instead of just throwing it away is inexcusable. He just looks one step behind mentally, like he’s always playing catch-up, which is how he loses track of the play clock so often. The timeout he called after trying to draw the Eagles offside was so profoundly idiotic it’s hard to believe. Pop Warner quarterbacks have more awareness than that.
It’s to the point now where I think Kaepernick is holding back the offense. I think I can see what Greg Roman is trying to do. Ideally it would look something like what the Redskins (still can’t believe that’s the actual name of an NFL team) offense looked like when RG3 was at his best (not a perfect comparison, but bear with me). A devastating running game with some zone read concepts to set up play action and open up the middle of the field. Kaepernick is supposed to read the defense pre snap and then check into the appropriate play, but way too often it results in delay of games and wasted timeouts. This was a problem with Smith too, so it’s not completely Kap’s fault, but It still doesn’t look like Kaepernick really has command of the offense and understands what they’re trying to do. The time Kaepernick has looked best this year was in Arizona when the 49ers went no huddle with five wide receivers and just threw it every play, eliminating the complicated pre snap reads.
All of this being said, Kaepernick is clearly the best option they have this season and probably next one too (2). You can win a Super Bowl with him as your quarterback, the 49ers almost did. Even when he’s bad (like yesterday) he comes up with one or two big plays that no one else can make, and he’s actually looked pretty good at times this year. You just would like to have seen more progress by now, both within the offense and as a passer in general. He should be getting more consistent, and he’s moving the other way. The talent is there, and I think he’s one of those people that is fueled by criticism, so I remain hopeful he will come out of this slump, but yesterday was the first time I doubted that Kaepernick was going to be great.