Don't Trade Kaepernick
Most of what Trent Baalke says these days has to be viewed skeptically but he’s been so vehement in his denials that the 49ers are shopping Colin Kaepernick that I believe him.
They shouldn’t be. They have to see if their attempt to have Kurt Warner teach him how to play quarterback will pay dividends.
Kaepernick has incredible physical skills. We all have our memories of him doing something we’ve never seen another quarterback do. Mine is the time he was out to the left sideline and saw Frank Gore on the right sideline and threw a bullet to him, which Gore then ran in unopposed for a touchdown.
Those fans and writers (sometimes, the same people) who like Kaepernick always refer to that strong arm. But a strong arm is far down the list of required skills for a quarterback. Neither Joe Montana nor Tom Brady would be called strong-armed but Montana is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Brady will be, too, when he’s eligible.
I’ve heard this argument before. When I started covering pro football, coaches felt quarterbacks had to have strong arms. Bobby Douglass was the poster boy. The saying was, “He could throw the ball through a brick wall. Unfortunately, he couldn’t always hit it.
Douglass never completed even 50 per cent of his passes in a season, and he had one season when he completed only 40 per cent.
He was a much better runner and had one season in which he fell only 32 yards short of 1,000 years.
Can we say Tim Tebow, anybody?
Kaepernick is also a good runner, though not an elusive one. The 49ers clueless chief executive, Jed York, was impressed by Kaepernick’s 90-yard run in the final game against San Diego but that one should come with an asterisk. The Chargers learned before they took the field that they’d been eliminated and nobody made any attempt to tackle Kaepernick as he ran down the middle of the field. The Chargers defenders weren’t going to take a chance on suffering an injury in a meaningless game.
The fact is, since his first season, good defenses have been able to slow down or even stop Kaepernick’s running. They simply have a defensive player, called a spy, designated to do that. Teams can’t do that against Seattle’s Russell Wilson because he’s a very elusive runner but Kaepernick is only a fast runner, not a deceptive one.
To be an effective quarterback, Kaepernick has to be able to go through his progressions and not be so predictable with his passing patterns. Frankly, I doubt that he can do that because I think he has a personality that makes him more of a renegade but the 49ers have no real choice. If they’re going to fight their way back to contention, they have to have the right quarterback.
With very rare exceptions, teams have to have a top quarterback to win the big games. Baltimore won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season with Trent Dilfer at quarterback but the Ravens had a stifling defense. Before that, you have to go back to the first two Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl wins in the ‘70s, when Terry Bradshaw was learning how to play quarterback and the Steelers won with defense.
The 49ers are nowhere near a Super Bowl contender now and, in fact, look like the bottom team in the NFC West, but their rebuilding has to start with the quarterback. So, we’ll soon see if Kurt Warner has been able to work miracles with Kaepernick. Cross your fingers.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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