On Sunday, Colin Kaepernick recorded over 200 yards passing for the first time since the season opener, when he threw for 400 yards in that game against the Green Bay Packers. The stats weren’t as impressive against the Arizona Cardinals, but he still was 16-of-29 and threw for 252 yards with two touchdowns. The win was a more convincing one against a better secondary and defensive unit as a whole.
The results in between the two solid passing performances were more in the mold of the game manager label. Here is a rundown:
VS Seattle 13/28 127yds 46.4% 0TDs 3INTs
VS Colts 13/27 150yds 48.1% OTDs 1INT
VS Rams 15/23 167yds 65.2% 2TDs OINTs
VS Texans 6/15 113yds 40.0% 1TD 0INTs
Outside of the completion percentage, those numbers mirror that of a game manager. A few people have asked me if Kaepernick should be a game manager. My answer to that question without a doubt is no. Asking Kaepernick to be a game manager is like buying an Aston Martin Vanquish and never driving it on the freeway. You never get to appreciate the beauty of that sports car if you only drive it within the city limits. Similarly, you can’t appreciate the athletic ability of Kaepernick if you make him be a game manager.
Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers do not want him to be a game manager. That is why they opted for Kaepernick to be the starter in the first place. If they wanted a game manager type of quarterback, they would have stuck with the ultimate game manager in Alex Smith. That statement is not in any way intended to knock Smith. He is playing pretty well with the Kansas City Chiefs this year and was playing well before the 49ers made their switch.
Frankly, a game manager could not have led a comeback from down 17 points on the road in the NFC Championship against the Atlanta Falcons. A game manager could not have come close to mounting the best comeback in Super Bowl history against the Baltimore Ravens last year. Game managers will not win a championship in this day and age of football. Teams need a gunslinger at quarterback that will put the team on their back and come up big in a big game.
Kaepernick makes throws that are not typical of the conservative game manager. He takes risk and will look to force the ball into spots. Game managers typically stick to high percentage throws that don’t travel far in the the air. Most of the yards for game managers come after the catch. A game manager will also usually have a lower average yards per completion.
The 49ers opted for Colin Kaepernick because of his dynamic playmaking ability. He can eat up huge chunks of yards when the pocket collapses and he takes off. He can also make plays when he attacks the line of scrimmage and pulls defenders towards him only to have him place the ball into the hands of an open receiver.
Anquan Boldin said that Kaepernick’s ability to extend plays and give him a chance to make a big catch is what excites him the most about his new quarterback. The two have come together to form a pretty dangerous tandem. Kaepernick trusts Boldin and will throw the ball to him even when he is covered. That is not what you will see too often from a game manager.
The arm strength that Kaepernick has allows him to be able to make any throw. Look at some of the throws that he made to Vernon Davis over the last two games. There are some sideline throws that were perfect drop shots. He did an excellent job of dropping the ball in a bucket on a play action pass which resulted in a 64-yard touchdown to Davis against the Texans. He forces defenders to worry about covering every inch of the field. Safeties are not able to play as close to the line of scrimmage as they can against more conservative passers. This also opens things up for the running game.
Kaepernick is at his best when he plays a renegade style of quarterback. He is effective when he takes off without any hesitation. It deflates the defense when a quarterback breaks off a long run to get the first down. This is especially the case when it’s a third and long situation in which all of the receivers are covered. Andrew Luck recently said that while at Stanford University, Jim Harbaugh told him to be sure to get a few first downs with his legs because of how it kills the defense.
The 49ers showed how good they can be with Kaepernick playing his game last year. The team thrives on his ability to be a dual threat. Don’t expect to see many games with stats like Kaepernick in the losses to the Seahawks and Colts. The team and Kaepernick went through a rough stretch in the first part of the season but the Cardinals game is proof that they are back on track.