Colin Kaepernick: 49ers Should Put Him In Bubble Wrap, Sit Him Down


For Colin Kaepernick, 2015 was supposed to be a season of redemption. After leading the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012, and within a Richard Sherman fingertip of another Super Bowl bid the following season, Kaepernick and the 49ers struggled to find their footing in 2014. And so far this season, not only have they not found their footing, the 49ers have fallen flat on their faces. Hard.

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Kaepernick’s offseason was much talked about, dissected, and publicized by himself and the team. The fact that he was working with former MVP and Super Bowl champion Kurt Warner to become a better pocket passer and more complete player had many people believing that he’d matured and was ready to take the next step in his evolution. Many thought that by working with Warner, he’d finally make that jump and become the elite quarterback a lot of folks believed him capable of being.

Boy, has Kaepernick proven everybody wrong about all of that.

A quarter of the way into the 2015 season, Kaepernick looks lost, confused, and like anything but an NFL quarterback. Fans at Levi’s Stadium have been heard shouting for HC Jim Tomsula to bench Kaepernick and elevate Blaine Gabbert to the starting role. Which given all that Gabbert is and is not, is a fairly stark indicator of just how far Kaepernick has fallen

For the season, Kaepernick is completing 62 percent of his passes (72-116), and has thrown for 727 yards. But he’s thrown just two touchdowns against five interceptions – with four of those interceptions being of the pick-six variety in San Francisco’s horrendous debacle against the Arizona Cardinals.

While Kaepernick hasn’t been setting the league on fire – not even with his supposedly new mechanics and delivery courtesy of Warner’s tutelage – his fans and apologists have downplayed his shortcomings. They have downplayed his incredibly pedestrian start pointing to a bad offensive line. A shoddy defense. A running game that isn’t going anywhere.

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  • And while none of those other critiques are without merit, the fact of the matter is that Kaepernick is making bad decisions with the football and some even poorer throws.

    After a less than stellar 17 of 26 for 165 yards performance to open the season against Minnesota – a game San Francisco won thanks to Carlos Hyde, Kaepernick was praised for his steady hand. After the team melted down worse than Chernobyl against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week two – a game that resulted in a 43-18 beating – Kaepernick’s fans and apologists pointed to his hefty stat line as evidence that he was back and ready to rock.

    For the game, Kaepernick completed 33 of 46 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns. But what those black and white stats don’t tell you is that most of those yards came well after Pittsburgh had built a substantial – and given the state of the 49ers offense – even insurmountable lead.

    Yeah, Kaepernick played really well against Pittsburgh – in garbage time.

    Against the Cardinals though, Kaepernick hit rock bottom. Not even his fans and apologists can defend, justify, or explain away a 9 for 19, 67 yard, zero touchdown, four interception performance. For the day, Kaepernick posted a very JaMarcus Russell -esque QB rating of 16.7.

    Oct 4, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) reacts after being hit on a 49ers running play against the Green Bay Packers in the third quarter at Levi

    And his performance in week four against the Green Bay Packers – a game San Francisco would have been hard pressed to win anyway – did absolutely nothing to rehabilitate or help him rebound as a player. While nowhere near the debacle of the Arizona game, Kaepernick was a pedestrian 13 for 25 for 160 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He also took six sacks on the afternoon, losing 41 yards in the process.

    Kaepernick has been so awful this season that even Clay Matthews decided to throw some salt in the wounds by reminding him, in front of the cameras, that he was no Russell Wilson – as if Kaeperick needed the reminder.

    Kaepernick’s confidence is completely shot. He has the football equivalent of what golfers call the “yips.” And he has it in a bad, bad way. Even the announcers calling the game have taken notice and commented on it.

    Fox commentator Troy Aikman, who called the 49ers-Packers game, called Kaepernick out after he bounced a pass to an open Reggie Bush. Said Aikman:

    "“I just don’t know how you miss this kind of throw. I don’t know if he saw a ghost or something and just thought that somebody was going to try to take it away.”"

    Kaepernick has lost his confidence, has lost his fans, he’s lost apologists, and has apparently even lost the broadcast team. But even worse that all of that is that Kaepernick seems to have lost his team. They’ve apparently lost as much confidence in his ability to be their quarterback as he has in his own ability to be their quarterback.

    A number of times throughout the course of the game, when the bad throws began to pile up, his receivers – namely Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin – were shown on camera expressing their frustration and anger at an ineffective Kaepernick. And if you can read body language, it was more than obvious that they’ve lost their faith in him to be their leader.

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    So having lost his fans, apologists, teammates, and his confidence, and then factoring in that he has failed in an offensive system that has been minimized, cut down, and supposedly plays to his greatest strengths, what does Kaepernick have left?

    The answer is, not much.

    Which means that the San Francisco 49ers don’t have very much when it comes to a quality starting quarterback or hope for the season. What they do have though, is the ability to do the smart thing, protect themselves, and save some money that could be better used to address the team’s other glaring areas of need. That’s the real benefit of the $126 million dollar contract they gave to Kaepernick.

    Kaepernick’s deal, in reality, is a series of one year deals. The team has the ability to pull the plug at any point and not do itself a great deal of financial harm. Based on the structure of the contract, San Francisco was obviously not entirely sold on the idea that Kaepernick was the man to lead them back to greatness – if they were, would they really have given themselves so many chances to hit the eject button built into the deal?

    With each successive throw, and with each successive loss, it’s becoming more and more likely that Kaepernick’s days in the Bay Area are coming to an end. In what is looking increasingly likely to be a lost season for the 49ers, it seems highly doubtful that the organization is going to want to move forward with Kaepernick under center in 2016.

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  • Which means they will very likely use one of those handy eject buttons at some point after the season ends and before April first, 2016. Cutting Kaepernick before the April first deadline, they are only responsible for the prorated amount of his signing bonus, which means the 49ers will save about $9.4 million dollars according to – that’s $9.4 million dollars they can use elsewhere to improve the team.

    However, San Francisco will be fully on the hook for Kaepernick’s 2016 salary – a cap hit of roughly $16.8 million according to – in the event of a season ending injury. And the fact that Kaepernick doesn’t appear to trust his arm these days, but has never lost confidence in his ability to make plays with his legs, could turn out to make that contract clause pretty relevant.

    With Kaepernick looking very uncomfortable in the pocket and not showing the patience to go through all of his reads before tucking and running – against Green Bay, Kaepernick led the team with ten rushing attempts, and he is second on the team for the season – the odds of him suffering that sort of catastrophic injury grow increasingly likely.

    Knowing that this is going to be a lost season – there are simply too many holes in the dam to plug up – the 49ers should do the smart thing for the organization. They should wrap Kaepernick in bubble wrap, put him on the shelf, and start planning for the future.

    It’s tough to call it a season just a quarter of the way through. But the simple fact is that the 49ers are sitting at 1-3 and given the mess that Kaepernick has become, along with the glaring deficiencies up and down the roster, it’s very likely not going to get any better. At least not this season.

    If they left Kaepernick as the starter, could they rally together for five wins? Six? Possibly. But that’s likely the best case scenario for the team. And they would be exposing themselves to tremendous financial risk if Kaepernick suffered a terrible injury along the way.

    What would be the point of letting Kaepernick continue to play and possibly get injured? Is a six or seven win, non-playoff season really better than a three or four win non-playoff season?

    Since it seems very possible, if not likely, that he’s not going to be San Francisco’s quarterback moving forward, the smart thing to do would be to sit Kaepernick down and minimize the financial risk to the organization. Paying a guy almost $17 million dollars to not play for your team would be a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

    But then, this Jed York/Trent Baalke regime hasn’t exactly been known for doing the smart thing.

    Next: 49ers Should Write Off Season For Goff