Colin Kaepernick Done For The Year, Done In San Francisco


For Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers, 2015 has been an unmitigated disaster. Anything that could go wrong has gone wrong, and unbelievably, things only seem to be getting worse.

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In a move that was shocking to many, the 49ers placed Kaepernick on the injured reserve list, ending his season – and very, very likely, his time as the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.

It’s a stunning end for Kaepernick after having led the 49ers to back to back NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl. His confidence, his swagger, and his ability to make plays with both his arms and his legs helped propel San Francisco to the top of the league. With his bold style of play and his effectiveness, many thought Kaepernick was the next evolution in NFL quarterbacks.

Times have most certainly changed.

While not entirely fair, the shift in perception surrounding Kaepernick and his abilities seemed to have started last season when San Francisco slipped from a 12-4 season that ended in a narrow NFC title game loss in 2013, to an 8-8 season in 2014 in which they missed the playoffs entirely.

To be completely fair though, the dysfunction in San Francisco and the ongoing war between former head coach Jim Harbaugh and the front office, led by the tandem of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum – otherwise known as Jed York and Trent Baalke created a schism within the team – one that had dire ramifications and may ultimately, have doomed this team to the path they’re currently on.

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But 2015 dawned for San Francisco with a new head coach, a new philosophy, and a new attitude for the franchise. For Kaepernick, it was supposed to be a fresh start. He worked long and hard through the offseason to improve his skills, to become a better quarterback, determined to avoid repeating the mistakes that plagued the team the previous season. So determined was Kaepernick to become a better quarterback, that he went so far as to enlist the help of a former NFL MVP in Kurt Warner.

Warner worked with Kaepernick on his throwing motion, footwork, and his ability to read defenses. It was believed that under Warner’s tutelage, Kaepernick would learn to rely less on his legs and more on his arm and brain to make plays. He was working on becoming the prototypical pocket passer rather than the freewheeling gunslinger that had made him – and the team – successful in 2012 and 2013.

Obviously, nothing has worked out according to plan for Kaepernick or the 49ers this season.

While Kaepernick does deserve some of the blame for San Francisco’s lack of success in 2015, the team has gone through an unprecedented whirlwind of calamity over the offseason. The retirements of Chris Borland, Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis, and Justin Smith – as well as the free agent departures of Frank Gore, Mike Iuapati, Perrish Cox, and Chris Culliver – left the 49ers reeling.

With poor offensive line play and a running game that has done little to take the pressure off of him, Kaepernick has floundered this season. Averaging just 181 yards per game this season, Kaepernick is leading the NFL’s thirtieth ranked passing attack – only Minnesota and St. Louis have more anemic passing games.

But Kaepernick hasn’t done anything to help his situation with poor throws and poor decision making. He’s looking less like the quarterback who was on top of the league just a couple of seasons ago and more like – well – Blaine Gabbert these days. Which makes his benching and the elevation of Gabbert to the starting role before the bye week all the more ironic.

For the season, Kaepernick is hitting on 59 percent of his passes (144 of 244) for 1,615 yards and he’s tossed just six touchdowns against five interceptions. He led San Francisco to a woeful 2-6 record in his eight starts and every time he seemed to be pulling himself out of his freefall, he followed it up with a game that seemed to start him on the downward spiral once again.

Kaepernick complained of soreness in his non-throwing shoulder after the October 4th loss to the Green Bay Packers – a condition that he said has not gotten any better despite the fact that he was listed as probable on the weekly injury report. The decision to place him on the IR was made after Kaepernick and his representatives met with the team.

Placing Kaepernick on IR not only ends his season, it is very likely an end to his era under center in the Bay Area.

Kaepernick’s terrible season is going to cost him a lot of money. The fact that he’s done so poorly this year – leading to his benching in favor of Gabbert, which tells you all you need to know about his fall from grace – along with the high price tag he will command if he’s on San Francisco’s roster after Aprl 1st, 2016 make the possibility of the 49ers bringing him back pretty remote.

If he’s on the roster after April 1st next year, the 49ers will owe him $16.7 million dollars. Given his poor year and the fact that he has shown zero improvement this season, it seems next to impossible that he will in fact, be in a 49ers uniform in 2016.

All of this only seems to make official, a breakup that has been in the making for a very long time. As CBS NFL insider Jason La Canfora Tweeted out earlier today, the relationship between Kaepernick and the team has been over for weeks.

It’s a sad and shocking fall from grace and end to Kaepernick’s tenure in San Francisco. A couple of seasons ago, nobody could have predicted that Kaepernick would fall so far so fast. He seemed to be a player at the top of his game. And now, he’s scraping rock bottom.

It would be unfair to place all of the blame on Kaepernick’s shoulders. Certainly, the dysfunction within the organization itself hasn’t helped him – or the team – at all. Jed York and Trent Baalke share just as much blame for the freefall the 49ers organization is in as the team itself does. And of course, Kaepernick has done a pretty good job of digging his own hole as well.

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Maybe a change of scenery is just what Kaepernick needs to reignite his career. Maybe playing in another city, wearing another uniform, free from all of the drama and dysfunction in San Francisco can help him get back to where he was just a couple of seasons ago – at the top of his game.

With today’s surprising move, it certainly seems like we’re going to get the chance to find out.