Colin Kaeparnick, the 49’ers uber athlete quarterback has been vilified the past year after being the darling, new age model of what the future NFL quarterback looked like the previous few years. So the question to ask now, is the guy who came within 5 yards of a super bowl title a bum, just another guy or an elite performer who needs the right system around him?
I’ve been on the record in the past saying he’s at best just another guy. However over the past eighteen months his attitude off the field and play on it, demonstrate that he’s likely more of a bum than even a competent backup, let alone a starter.
Let me start with why he’s just another guy. Kaepernick played 5 years in college (redshirted one season), so he entered the NFL more mature than most players at 23 years old. He had played in 51 college games (@Nevada), starting 46 of them. He amassed video game numbers in college (first player to throw for over 10k yards and rush for 4k in his career). Then he was selected early (36th overall) in 2011 draft, and was able to sit & learn that entire first year in the NFL. In his second season he was used on gadget plays a handful of times but didn’t see more than a couple snaps in a game until the starter, Alex Smith, went down with injury in week 10.
From week 10 of the 2012 season on, Kaepernick took over starting duties for the defending NFC Champions led by a dominant defense and running game. He had his ups and downs the rest of that year but his highlights were spectacular, capped by an NFL QB 181 rushing yard record versus Green Bay. However the “just another guy” evidence came on the final four 49’ers plays of Super Bowl XLVII. Kaepernick struggles to get the team set on 2nd down resulting in a 5 yard penalty, he then proceeds to throw the ball away on 2nd and 4th downs. Just another guy can’t recognize the situation and give their team an opportunity to win by throwing the ball up for grabs on 4th down, or more nuanced lead the team to ensure no mental penalties (such as delay of games, a specialty for Kaepernick). You can see that in the video embedded.
The 2015 season presented Kaepernick with some adversity, and he responded by being selfish, isolating himself from his teammates and ultimately deciding he would shut himself down for the year and this week demand a trade. Kaepernick was young in 2012 but he was by no means inexperienced at 25 years old, and by the end of this past year, at 28, he is who he is as a teammate.
There will be plenty who counter argue that Kaepernick is easily the most athletic player to ever play quarterback. He is as big as Cam Newton, but faster (4.5 40) with a much stronger arm (he’s been clocked at mid 90’s as a high school pitcher). Yes he almost won a super bowl but that team was great without him and just a muffed punt away from the previous year’s super bowl.
To be a competent quarterback, athletic ability isn’t the primary success factor, it’s the ability to command, lead your team, and make timely decisions. Time and time again the best quarterbacks are the true leaders, players that demand the most out of themselves and their teammates, and who step up when adversity strikes. Kaepernick has demonstrated he lacks the mental makeup during the heat of the game AND he’s shown this past year he’s not a leader off the field either.
Some team, probably his current one, will continue to take a chance on the athletic upside, I just don’t see him as a competent quarterback.