There is no doubt that San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick is one of the most polarizing players in the league. In 2012, Kaepernick took over for an injured Alex Smith and took the NFL by storm. He led the 49ers to the Super Bowl and was just five yards away from winning it. The following offseason, you could hardly go anywhere without hearing or seeing something about Kaepernick. Because of all this attention, Kaepernick had some high expectations to meet with both fans and analysts. When he didn’t meet those expectations initially, the fans and the media tore him apart.
Among all of the endorsements and popularity people seem to have forgotten that Kaepernick is still very young. He’s only started a full season once and it was a very decent season for a young quarterback. The football universe has been spoiled recently by the amazing play of the young quarterbacks, and that has raised the expectations of every other young quarterback. People forget that just a few years ago, 21 touchdowns with only eight interceptions and more than 3,000 yards was a good season for a quarterback who started his first season.
OK, that’s enough of defending him.
Kaepernick is not flawless. Not even close. He still has plenty of areas where he can clean up his game. Kaepernick has the potential to be one of the great quarterbacks in this league, but he can’t get there until he makes progress and takes the next step. Most of Kaepernick’s short-comings are from the mental side of the game. Kaepernick has all the physical tools you need to be a great quarterback, he just needs to put them all together.
Kaepernick has one of the strongest arms in the league. He can make just about any throw, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect at it. He has always struggled at throwing touch passes and knowing when to take some heat off the ball. If you watch quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, you’ll notice how every pass isn’t just a bullet. It seems like even the majority of Kaepernick’s passes are bullets, but just at different speeds. He’s capable of making those great touch passes, since we’ve all seen him do it plenty of times before. He just needs to recognize when to make those passes, and then execute them.
To go along with the above paragraph, Kaepernick trusts his arm maybe a little too much at times. With how strong his arm is, it affects his decision making. There have been times where he makes ill-advised throws because he believes he can fit the ball in anywhere. As long as he continues to do this, he can’t make the next step to greatness. He was bailed out against both the Packers and the Panthers by DBs dropping interceptions but Seattle didn’t make the same mistakes, and it cost the team.
At this point in his short career, Kaepernick is not the type of quarterback that makes his receivers better. It is quite the opposite actually. When the 49ers were struggling at wide receiver, Kaepernick was also struggling. But like I said, he has had a very short career and for young quarterbacks, this is not a bad thing. It’s normal for good, veteran receivers like Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree or Vernon Davis to help out their young quarterback and Kaepernick needs to learn to trust all of his receivers.
Now, it wouldn’t be easy to for any quarterback to throw to Marlon Moore, Kyle Williams or Jon Baldwin, but at the same time great quarterbacks wouldn’t be force feeding the same couple receivers and have their fullback as their third leading receiver. We saw what happens when team take away Kaepernick’s trusted targets. He goes into panic mode and the offense shuts down. He needs to find a way to create offense with his other options or else defenses will shut him down every game.
Kaepernick is most criticized for not going through his reads. There are plenty of examples of him going through all his reads, but there’s even more examples of him taking off and running after his first read is covered. He knows how to go through his reads, but sometimes he just hears ghosts and panics. He has to be able to stay in the pocket and go through his reads and make the correct throw. Now whether the line gives him the time for that is another thing, but there was plenty of times this season where he had a clean pocket and chose to run because he was hearing things.
This is the whole point of being young and getting better and taking that next step. Hopefully as his experience grows, he will refine all of the mental aspects of being a quarterback. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Peyton Manning wasn’t a record breaking quarterback in his first full season either. Kaepernick has all the tools to succeed and take the next step, he just needs to put them all together.