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49ers championship window about to start closing?

Mar 26, 2014 at 9:49 AM

During his final press conference for the 2013 season Jim Harbaugh was asked if he thought that the 49ers window to a title is still open and the answer was typical Harbaugh, "Back today competing for that very thing. So, no, I don't understand windows."

Harbaugh is paid to coach and win football games, not understand windows, so let me help him out a bit. The 49ers window is about to start closing and it comes down to one thing, Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick is entering the final year of his rookie contract and everything points to the 49ers giving their young signal caller a new deal. Reports from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando have the top three men in the organization, Jed York, Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh all stating that getting a new deal done for Kaepernick prior to the start of training camp would be their offseason priority.

If the 49ers give Kaepernick the type of contract he is seeking, between $18 to $20 million annually, the clock on the window will start ticking like that of Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinny.

A big reason for the 49ers success over the last three years has been the result of the their depth. The 49ers have had one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. Once they commit that type of money to Kaepernick they will be forced to cut in other areas. This will force the team to rely on younger, less expensive and experienced players and force Kaepernick to shoulder a larger role in the teams performance.

Many will point to the continued success of the Patriots, Broncos, Saints, or Packers in recent years although they have high paid quarterbacks. And those are all valid examples, just as the Bears, Cowboys, Jets and Lions are good examples of teams that have had high paid quarterbacks and failed to win.

The difference is that guys like Brady, Manning, Brees and Rodgers didn't get paid until they had already proven they could win the big one. At the end of the day that's what it's all about right?

In addition to winning, the Brady's and Manning's of the NFL world have proven that they can carry the team and make the players around them better. This season Brady led the Patriots to the Championship game despite losing Rob Gronkowski to injury during the year, and Wes Welker to free agency. Meanwhile, three of Kaepernick's worst performances in 2013 came when Vernon Davis was lost for some or all of the game in losses to Seattle, Indianapolis and Carolina.

Let's forget Brady for a minute and look at an interesting stat that hits much closer to home. In 2011 Kyle Williams and Alex Smith combined for a quarterback rating of 143.3. In 2013 Williams and Colin Kaepernick combined for a quarterback rating of 25.7.

Those in support of a new deal for Kaepernick will point to his outstanding postseason record. They will go on about how he has a 4-2 record and led them to four road wins. All of this in his first year and a half as the starting quarterback.

That looks like quite an accomplishment until you realize that Mark Sanchez did the same thing with the New York Jets.

Back in 2009 and 2010, Sanchez's first two seasons in NewYork, the Jets feature a defense that finished first and sixth in points against. The result was back to back trips to the AFC Championship game and a nice big deal for Sanchez. In 2011, after a number of changes on both offense and defense due in part to salary cap constraints the Jets scoring defense fell to 20th. Sanchez proved that he was unable to shoulder the load for the team and the end result was missing the playoffs with an 8-8 record.

Much like Sanchez, Kaepernick has been backed by a tremendous defense. The 2012 and 2013 49ers have feature defenses finished the season second and third in points against. To this point Kaepernick has not been forced to shoulder the load.

The professionals that run the 49ers franchise know what they are doing.

Tick, Tick, Tick
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Reggie
    Nice link, that guy was saying the same thing as you but actually doing a worse job making the argument IMO. He says "I don't want to be the Ravens, Cowboys, or lions" as if your only options are those teams or superbowl. Would we really prefer to be the Jaguars over the Lions? What's a talented roster without a good quarterback? Texans. I certainly don't want to be the texans. Maybe they draft their franchise qb this year and turn it all around. Or maybe they get a bust and continue to struggle, or become the Rams. Not every qb prospect is Andrew Luck. I'm not saying we shouldn't even consider moving on from Kap, sure, consider every option, there are valid points to doing it. But if our goal is either to have the highest chance to win a superbowl or to have the highest chance at sustained success, we should probably resign him, especially with a rapidly rising salary cap. He can be a top 10 QB in the league for years to come (I don't think thats unrealistic or overly "fanboy"). How many fans want to waste the prime years of our other stars trying to figure out who our QB is from 2015-2017 or so? How fast did the Texans window close?
    Apr 8, 2014 at 1:04 PM
  • Jack Hammer
    This guy is saying the same thing as me!
    Apr 1, 2014 at 6:30 PM
  • Danman49
    I am of the belief that we should resign Kaep because of his unique skill set but that is beside the point. Why would you use a receiver with 20 or fewer catches each of those 2 seasons as a baseline comparisons for the 2 QB's? That is just asinine. You're talking a whooping difference of 8 catches and 3 TD's. Kyle Williams won't be the reason you win a Super Bowl for any team. Show me stats for Vernon and Crabtree if you want to compare. What about Kaep lighting up Boldin for 200 on week 1 last year? Can't remember a WR having a 200 yd game w/ Alex. I liked Alex when he was a Niner but does anyone believe we would have been 1 play away from winning the SB with Alex? He completed 1 catch for 3 yds to all WR's in the NFC Championship game. You can't have sustained success that way. Kaep pushes the ball downfield and at some point the QB has to do that. Alex is the check down King.
    Apr 1, 2014 at 6:25 PM
    Response: Crabtree, Davis and Boldin were already all top receivers prior to Kaepernick taking over. Williams was the one non-star that they both have in common. Yes, Kaepernick pushes the ball downfield more, but his yardage per game is only 10 more than Smith. Your argument is mostly based on style.
  • pokerjohn
    Closing? correction, CLOSED. Does anyone really think that we can compete with the other NFC teams who have improved already? After we lost 2 starting CBs. Our other CB is coming off of a very serious injury and he may be in major trouble with the law, who knows how that situation will play out. Add to that, the fact our coach hasn't learned from his mistakes in the past 3 seasons. On top of that the team refuses to get a receiver to compliment the ones we have. Clearly Boldin and Crabs cant get it done all alone. There is one tiny piece to make the offense a complete threat and they absolutely refuse to get it. So I ask you a question...How is our window still open? I love Kap and I hope that he improves but the bottom line is that he isn't the great type of QB who can make no-name receivers into studs. He will basically manage the game like Smith with just a little more flair is all. Its almost unfortunate that the team was so successful the last 2 seasons with Kap at QB. Now he demands a huge contract and he will get it. At the end of the day hes a bigger stronger faster game manager. care to explain why the window is "open"?
    Apr 1, 2014 at 12:20 PM
  • Chris
    I see where you are coming from, but in the case of Colin Kaepernick his athletic ability off top trumps that of all the greats and busts you've mentioned. When you say Manning's it doesn't flow, yes Peyton had a great regular season in 2013, and did surpass Brady and the weak NE defense in the Championship game, but was made look silly by a real NFL defense. Plain and simple this is a rare case that should never be compared to Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets. Yes clock is ticking, yes Kaep has alot to prove, as if being 3 inches shy on 1 TD pass short to the Super Bowl, which we would have rolled over Denver also isn't enough for you. PAY HIM!!!! this is the new NFL all position players are replaceable in 2-3 years, NOT QB's
    Apr 1, 2014 at 9:19 AM
  • Ish Mail
    Ok Chicken Little. The sky is falling. The 9ers are good in so many areas. The cap is increasing so Kaep's contract actually comes at a very good time. If the 9ers can select 2 to 4 guys per draft that will soundly replace aging players, they will remain very good for some time.
    Mar 30, 2014 at 12:07 PM
  • J. Mathews
    So another article on not paying Kap market value and rolling the dice in the draft every few it!
    Mar 28, 2014 at 9:06 PM
  • Nale Gunn
    Are You Trying To Piss Me Off!
    Mar 28, 2014 at 2:07 PM
    Response: What's up cuz?
  • Reggie
    The more important point is that everyone who is against resigning Kap seems to assume that we can just draft another QB (maybe even 3rd round or later) that will be just as good. I think this argument comes from the fact that we've watched Kap, Russ, Luck, and Foles do really well, so it feels like, "hey, if your team's good you can just plug any qb in." But, in the last 4 years, 21 qbs have been drafted in rd 3 or higher. Only 8 of those have really had any success, which includes Bradford Dalton (and Kap). And 4 of those have been drafted with pick 1 or 2. So in four years, there have been 17 qbs drafted in the first 3 rds after picks 1 and 2, and you have 4 starters. Think about that (under 25 percent). Of qbs drafted after the 3rd round in that time, there are 26, and the highlights are kirk cousins and tj yates. I think people really overblow this "qb whisperer' thing, and act like theres a 50 percent chance if we draft a qb in the first 3 rds he'll be as good as Kap. Thats just not the way the numbers break down. Yes, its possible to move on from Kap and draft someone just as good, but your rolling the dice. IMHO resign Kap over having a Dalton-level qb on a rookie deal.
    Mar 28, 2014 at 1:21 PM
  • Christian
    This is your "pal". I wanted to bring something to your attention. According to you: "The difference is that guys like Brady, Manning, Brees and Rodgers didn't get paid until they had already proven they could win the big one." Um, wrong. Peyton Manning was signed to a 6-year, $48 million extension in July of 1998. Correct me if I'm wrong, but he choked multiple playoff games away before winning the big one. Drew Brees was signed to a 6-year $60 million contract in 2006. He did not win the SB until 2010. Aaron Rodgers was signed to a 6-year, $65 million extension in October of 2008. Two years before he won the SB. He also lost a heartbreaker to the Cardinals (in which he gave up the game-winning fumble) before winning it all. Peyton, Drew, and Aaron all got money before getting any rings. I get that the numbers of those extensions are less than what Kap will probably get. But we're talking 1998, 2006, and 2008 market values, respectively. The point I am trying to make is that the Colts, Saints, and Packers paid for future performance. They threw cash at those guys because they had hight expectations for them. Much like the Niners will do with Kap.
    Mar 28, 2014 at 1:10 PM
    Response: Hey Pal! I missed you. When Rodgers signed that deal it accounted for ~ 9.3% of the Packers total cap number. Giving that same amount of cap space to Kaep would mean an average of ~ $12.3 million, not $18-$20.
  • Reggie
    Well, it seems like everyone who's weighed in on this issue believes one extreme or the other. Either signing Kap will doom the franchise, or not signing Kap will doom the franchise. I think in reality, either choice could work out quite well or quite poorly for the team. As far as this article, I do think it is cherry-picking statistics to make a point, such as the Kyle Williams stat line. The author has yet to include the differences in Crabtree's stat line between the two QBs, which is I think ducking a point that goes against his argument. In 18 career games with Kap, postseason included, (I didn't want to do the math down to 16 game averages) Crabs has 95 rec, 1367 yds, and 9tds. In his best season without Kap, he had 72 rec, 874 yards, and 4tds. So who really cares if Kyle Williams has less production when Crabs has significantly more? But I think the more important point to consider is (gonna have to come in a second post)
    Mar 28, 2014 at 1:08 PM
    Response: Crabtree started 2011 with an injury but was a top 10 WR over the last 10 weeks of the season. He was already a proven commodity.
  • Craig
    I think that Alex and Kap both have a good skill set to work with. They both were drafted high because they are talented. I get that you want to see them draft a QB and let Harbaugh work with him. Which QB do you have in mind?
    Mar 27, 2014 at 4:21 PM
    Response: Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger, David Fales would all be good options if they wait until round 3 or later.
  • MauiDave
    So if Kap isn't worth a top QB contract and we let him walk to sign with another team (say the Rams or Cards), who do you replace him with and how do you like our chances to win the division? It's not like teams let top ten QBs get away. Gotta have a good if not superstar QB if you want to contend. There are a lot of GMs that would love to have Kap on their team instead of having to play against him. Someone will scoop him up if we don't.
    Mar 27, 2014 at 10:24 AM
    Response: Draft a guy and let the "QB Whisperer" go to work.
  • Mike
    I see your points, but would also argue a few of them. For example - Alex Smith and Kyle Williams May have had a good rating- what was the production? Meaning yards, td, etc? Also what was Crabtree's production pre-Colin? No doubt it took off afterward. I also see the point about Sanchez and the defenses, but I think Colin's performances have been much greater and not necessarily winning a low scoring match like we saw in Sanchez. So I'd disagree with that notion. The bottom line is that we have to keep Kaep- like it or not he's the guy and I think that's a good thing. He's going to keep improving (please look at more than your primary read!) but he deserves to be paid for the performances he's delivered and will conceivably keep delivering. The big contract may also not bite our team so hard if the salary cap continues to jump as expected. That's my hope at least - then we'll see the team be able to add talent despite the big contract.
    Mar 27, 2014 at 9:07 AM
    Response: Kyle Williams - 2011 - 20 receptions on 30 targets, 241 yards, 12.1 avg, 3 TD, 14 first downs. 2013 - 12 receptions on 27 targets, 113 yards, 9.4 avg, 0 TD, 5 first downs. In the 2013 postseason, the 49ers averaged 21 points per game, 23, 23, 17. In the 2010 postseason, the Jets averaged 21.3 points per game, 17, 28, 19.
  • BellevueMike
    No wide receivers to stretch the field bizarre use of V. Davis "Jumbo" Roman = How can you really know what Kap can do until he's given the players and plan to shine a light on it?
    Mar 27, 2014 at 8:27 AM
    Response: The use of Davis is interesting. In 2011 and 2012 Alex Smith targeted Davis 5.4 times per game. In 2012 and 2013 Kaepernick targeted Davis 5.3 times per game. Looks like it's been pretty consistent since Harbaugh/Roman took over regardless of the QB.
  • Dallas Niner Fan
    So, to summarize your article, QB's need good players around them to be successful and teams need to manage the salary cap. Wow! what a revelation.
    Mar 27, 2014 at 7:26 AM
  • Marty
    The window for the 49ers could close big time next season. 49ers defense has carried this team since Harbaugh arrived. That the way he wants it. However the great defense will start the season missing four starters. They are T. Brown, Whitner, Rogers & Bowman. A big hit. Against playoff teams the 49ers were 2 & 4 in 2013 (losses to Seahawks, Colts, Panthers & Sanits). In all of them the offense struggled. Next season the Western division will be much improved. Seattle will not be the only team to watch. 49ers just beat Arizona, in both games the score was 23 to 20. Arians will be in his second season. The team should improve greatly. They have picked up some excellent free agents. 49ers will play the second toughest division, AFC West. Will be able to see Alex & KC. I will be very interested in the Eagles game, their offense & Kelly. The 49ers have to play in New Orleans again, loss to them last season. It should be interesting, the pressure will be on Harbaugh to win a SB. He knows what will happen if he doesn't.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 7:39 PM
  • Matt
    The bottom line is, you either pay Kap what his market value is or you don't pay him at all. There is no plan B where he takes half of what the market dictates he is worth. The market may be wrong about his actual value, but that doesn't matter. It is what it is. That having been said, I suspect that in the end it will look like a blockbuster deal, but the 49ers will structure it in a way that is substantially more cap friendly during the early years than the average would indicate.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:38 PM
  • Ceadderman
    We enjoyednearly a 20 year window from our 1st Super Bowl. Granted 10 years of that was prior to the Salary Cap era, but nonetheless over that span of time the thought process was to keep a core group of players together and piecemeal in the rest. And that is something that I would like to see York and Baalke return to. This was why it took so long to get back to where our team belongs. Once Donahue took the axe out of the back of the team it was bloody and gory from the contracts he excised and pretty much all of them were from the bodies of the core unit. 11 Starters and all of them because he gave them huge incentive laden deals that were attainable. Two players that will likely come off the books fairly soon are Justin Smith and Frank Gore. That's nearly 14 million in Salary right there. Neither will be playing for much longer so the Window is not as small as you think. Then Boldin too. I think that Baalke needs to identify the core unit and stick to the formula that Bill Walsh used to keep that window open.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 5:33 PM
    Response: That philosophy was helped out quite a bit by QB's who eventually ended up in the Hall of Fame.
  • Jersey9er
    Man, take all the comments with a grain of salt. It's no better in the actual zone than on this. I don't think you said anything disrespectful, and I am a big Kaep supporter and make sure I mention it every time I say anything negative. Say something wrong it seems, and your a hater, dislike. Then if you defend him, your a fan boy, etc. You wont ever win in here either way. IT's like a damn if you do, damn if you don't. Kaep is working on getting better, and all we can do is hope. But for his 4-2 record, he still has things he has to work on, just like the other Qb's you mentioned. Kaep is a good game manager, and complements the star of the offense which is the run game. Honestly in order for Kaep to take the next step, I feel that he and the offense have to be a passing first team with the complement of the run. Not the other way around that it is now. With Kaep, with Smith, even Shaun Hill, lmao. We are a run first team with a top 3 defense, and we have a QB that can help us win games. And for the past two seasons, that's all we needed.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 4:30 PM
    Response: Ah, it's all in good fun. I even made a new pal today.
  • Craig
    I didn't think there was anything wrong with the article. It's your opinion. I couldn't figure out why people complain about you...then I read your response to Christian "Who's got it better than the 49ers fan base? Nooooobody, unless you are a fan of the Seahawks, Ravens or Giants." Once again still your opinion but I think 5>4>2>1. Opposing haters like to use the whole "who's got it better than us" line. I like to read redzone articles to avoid the trolls. Please leave that garbage for the rest of the internet. Let's enjoy being Niner fans here. And by the way...Who's got it better than us?.....NOBODY!!!!
    Mar 26, 2014 at 3:35 PM
  • Torrence
    "The difference is that guys like Brady, Manning, Brees and Rodgers didn't get paid until they had already proven they could win the big one." Manning was paid out of the gate and his pay continued to rise even though he did not win the big one for years. Brees certainly got paid before he won the big one. Rodgers was definitely not a rookie salary. But we get it, you don't like Kaep, never will and you will misrepresent in order to reach your desired conclusion. The three blind mice can see this.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 3:05 PM
    Response: "you don't like Kaep, never will" That couldn't be any further from the truth. Thinking that a player isn't worth over 10% of his teams salary cap has nothing to do with like or dislike. In fact, here is a piece that I put together on Kaepernick about a month before Smith was injured and he took over.
  • Christian
    Nice comeback on my prior comment buddy. Do yourself a favor and quit watching football and writing about it. While the majority of other fanbases would kill to be in the Faithful's position, you sit around nitpicking and trying to find things to criticize the Niners on. Maybe you should go write about the Seahawks.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 2:24 PM
    Response: Thanks pal. Who's got it better than the 49ers fan base? Nooooobody, unless you are a fan of the Seahawks, Ravens or Giants.
  • Sebastian
    This article was a Complete waste of my time ..How the Zone keeps allowing you to write articles is puzzling!..The only ticking going around here is your pass to write columns ..Listen jack, Sanchez wishes he was half the QB Kaepernick is Now!..It's his ceiling that's gonna take this team to the promise land!..Sanchez coming out had limits and everyone knew that except that jets(look how that tuned out)...Sit back this year and enjoy the season as you eat your words buddy
    Mar 26, 2014 at 1:37 PM
    Response: I'm quite interested to find out how different or similar it turns out.
  • Kerry
    I think Kaep is great. He needs to improve as all players who are great do. THe niners should offer him a healthy bonus this year and let him know they want him back. But I agree that the Niners should be allowed to build the best team around him which takes money/Cap space. He has carried the team on a couple occasions and would have more if let lose. He is our QB of the future and will get a couple SB's But he does need a team around him. In future years the cap will raise and then pay the man.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 1:30 PM
  • Paul A.
    Jack. You nailed it.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 1:25 PM
  • Shawn
    People lets face it Kaep will not sign a deal for $9-10 mil, its just not going to happen. The main argument for not paying him will be same argument for paying him. The market dictates a players value and because Manning, Brees, Brady, and Rogers all earn around $20-22 mil that will of course be the ceiling however Stafford, Cutler, Romo and Flacco all earn around $18-20 and while you can argue Kaep is not in the Top tier "Elite" qbs he is a good qb who is young and has experienced success early. As far as the Sanchez caparison he was asked to be a game manager from the beginning (Alex Smith) in fact his coach wanted to move up to draft who???? Kaep! because he felt Kaep had the higher ceiling with the potential to become a superstar.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 1:19 PM
  • chris
    Terrible article, lacking context.... Kaep hasn't shouldered the load lol, in his first half season toward the end of the year J Smith got hurt in the game against the Patriots and the 49ers defense started giving up 30 points every game, they were terrible, so Kaepernick COMPLETELY carried the team to a SUPERBOWL, go look at the stats and do your research. You mentioned alex smith, who had our best defense since the mid 90's that had the best turn over differential in the nfl in 25 years, best starting field position in the nfl that year, david akers set the nfl field goal record and alex 3 and out smith absolutely choked vs the giants in the nfc championship game, couldn't get one 1st down in the entire 4th quarter. BTW what was crabtrees numbers with alex smith vs Kaep? No context, learn football.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 1:05 PM
    Response: The 2012 defense gave up 17 points against the Packers until a late score when the outcome had already been decided, and then held the Falcons scoreless in the second half of the championship game. The increase in Crabtree's numbers once Kaepernick took over was due in large part to an increase in targets. Smith targeted Crabtree 6.9 times per game, while Kaepernick targeted Crabtree 9.3 times per game.
  • jim
    wrong!! The cap will go up to 160 million in 2016 and who knows how much higher in 2017. Plenty of money to pay all the players.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 12:23 PM
  • Christian
    Great point! Because chemistry with Kyle Williams (he of the 45 career receptions in 4 seasons and two torn ACL's) is the ultimate indicator of a QB's worth. Alex Smith is not walking through that door at any time, and with good reason. Alex Smith would have never led us to a SB. Forget that, we would have never had a chance in any of the past six playoff games with Alex. You forget that our amazing defense faltered in the playoffs the past two years. The only reason we won some of those games and had a chance in the others was Kap's feet/arm. If you love Alex so much, go cheer for the Chiefs. Let's see how that works out for you. By the way: Colin is 4-2 in the playoffs with THREE road wins, not four. Learn some facts before you got post random noise. I'm pretty sure Mark Sanchez A) Never led his team to comebacks (ATL, CAR) or winning drives (GB) in the playoffs, and B) Never played in a Super Bowl. How someone who thinks Kap and Sanchez are in the same ballpark can post stuff in a legitimate website is amazing. You Sir, should be banned from the internet.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 11:22 AM
    Response: My bad. So Kaepernick has 3 road wins, to 4 for Sanchez. Makes the whole 4-2 record in the playoffs for Kaepernick even less impressive.

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