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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

For Colin Kaepernick, the Time Is Now

Sep 4, 2015 at 11:48 PM17

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The truth of the matter is that Colin Kaepernick is a misunderstood soul. Those who know him closely say that he's a humble, quiet, hard-working guy who just wants to play football at the highest level possible. He has been heavily involved with the children's charity Camp Taylor, helping children with heart defects and volunteering his time. He's just a regular guy who owns a 115-pound tortoise named Sammy and also just happens to be the quarterback for the 5-time Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers.

At this moment, there is no player who is more popular and recognizable on the 49ers than Colin Kaepernick (apologies to Jarryd Hayne). His meteoric rise to stardom began in 2012, highlighted by a record breaking rushing performance against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Playoff and a berth in Super Bowl 47.

Kaepernick got his first taste of what it truly means to be a leader before he even had his 10th start in the league. Imagine being 25 years old, getting your first shot at starting in the NFL as the leader of a proud 49ers franchise on the verge of a Super Bowl birth, and on top of it all having to deal with media scrutiny about your appearance. Almost immediately after he got the starting job, there were generalizations about him because of his appearance. He stayed the course and dealt with the pressure gracefully.

Kaepernick went on to lead the 49ers to another NFC Championship Game appearance following the 2013 season and was amongst a group of young, mobile quarterbacks that had the potential to revolutionize the position and the game. Few quarterbacks in the National Football League had enjoyed the type of success that Kaepernick was enjoying at such an early stage in his career.

Then the Harbaughcalypse happened.

Flash forward 3 years from his Super Bowl season and it can be said unequivocally, that no quarterback in the league has seen his team implode around him like Colin Kaepernick has this past year. He has gone from being one of several leaders on the team to the leader on the team. To his credit, he has been in positive spirits throughout the mass exodus, like a true leader should be.

Amid turmoil between the front office and then head coach Jim Harbaugh, 2014 was a wash. Kaepernick struggled to find rhythm in the pocket, with the team being hit hard by injuries. He took a beating, getting sacked a league-high 52 times. He was inconsistent at times, flashing his brilliance mixed in with some questionable decisions with the football as he set a career high in interceptions thrown (10). It seemed as if he had taken a step back. Still, he set career highs in passing yards (3,369) and rushing yards (639).

Kaepernick recognized that he needed to improve his pocket presence. He enlisted the help of NFL great Kurt Warner and spent extensive time working with him this offseason. The changes Kaepernick made are subtle, but enough to impress his teammates. "You guys are in for a treat," said tight end Vernon Davis during organized team activities back in April.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes it can take a lot to change an athlete but Kaepernick stepped up, looked at himself in the mirror, identified his flaws and tried to address them - like a leader.

Gone is former head coach Jim Harbaugh, whose system Kaepernick excelled in. The same goes for former Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, who called the read option plays that made Kaepernick so dangerous as a runner. The current system is the brainchild of former Quarterbacks Coach and current Offensive Coordinator Geep Chryst.

The new offensive scheme promises to fix the deficiencies of the past, such as delay of game penalties, lack of tempo and lack of involvement of running backs in the passing game. Former long-time running back Frank Gore had career-lows in receptions (11) and receiving yards (114) in 2014. Through observations from practice and preseason, it is apparent that the running backs will be more involved in the passing game. If Kaepernick has any hope of staying upright this year, he'll have to use his running backs as outlets when the defense is bearing down on him.

The components of Chryst's system are designed to make it easier for the quarterback to make the proper read by putting receivers closer to him. The system also calls for the quarterback get rid of the ball quickly, or in Kaepernick's case, have the option to run.

Kaepernick played sparingly during the preseason, completing 5 of 13 passes for 40 yards and zero touchdowns; so it's hard to make a judgment on whether he really has improved or not. There were missed opportunities with newly acquired wide receiver Torrey Smith on a couple of deep balls, but those are things that can easily be fixed. It's clear that the 49ers coaching staff - who see all the intangibles that most people fail to recognize - are satisfied with Kaepernick's grasp of the offense and did not need to take a further look at him this preseason.

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. The teams with the most successful quarterbacks are usually near the top of the league. That's not to say that football isn't a team sport because it absolutely is. The 49ers' 2014 season is an indication that a team often rises and falls together. However, just as the quarterback usually gets the glory when things go well, he also often gets the blame when things go south.

It's clear that this is a make-or-break season for Kaepernick. The team-friendly deal that he signed in the Summer of 2014 essentially states that the 49ers can cut him after this year with very little long-term salary cap ramifications. Kaepernick took that team friendly deal so that the 49ers could retain more of their talent.

The reality of the situation is that Kaepernick has all of the tools he needs to be successful as a quarterback. He has put in the necessary work to address his flaws and learn the new playbook to the extent that he can now direct his teammates on where to go in practice. He has put in the work to grow as a leader that his teammates can count on when the going gets tough.

For Colin Kaepernick, being a leader requires the ability to thrive in and embrace tough situations. It's meeting his birth mother for the first time ever when he was in college. It's going into a heavily favored Boise St. and coming out with a win. It's going into Lambeau Field in freezing temperatures and sending the Packers home in the playoffs. Kaepernick has accomplished what he has due in large part to his "refuse to lose" attitude. It will be that same attitude that he will have to regain to pull himself - and his team - out of the fire.
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.


  • Tim
    Hopefully this new up tempo Offence will get a play into Colin with some time left on the play clock So he can go through his progressions
    Sep 13, 2015 at 7:42 AM
  • Derek Anhorn
    This a make or break season for Kap IMO. He needs to play great, not mediocre, not good, he has be great! Otherwise they really need to look elsewhere.
    Sep 12, 2015 at 11:29 AM
  • Dan Waterman
    Well written article, hopefully Greg Roman's departure will prove good for Kaepernick. If I remember correctly, delay of game penalties and burned timeouts were also a problem for Alex Smith when he was the QB. It was the nature of plays Roman was calling. However, we will find out this year if it was the play calling or Kaepernick. He will not be able to throw to Crabtree because he is no longer with the team.
    Sep 5, 2015 at 10:26 PM
  • 49erfaithful_(916)
    Kaepernick is the fastest and probably the strongest arm QB in the NFL Plain and simple he has football accurate and convert on 3rd downs!NO excuses! O-line has to do there job as well to protect him, KAP suppose to be leader of the team and has to create toucndowns! NO more penalties! DONT rely on KAP trying to 200 yards a game and don't DEPEND on FEILDGOALS! or KAP will get cut & I WONT be surprised!
    Sep 5, 2015 at 5:05 PM
  • Banks (Louisiana49er)
    This is probably the most well stated and we'll written article i have read in the last 3 years. All I really want to see is Kap make quicker and better decisions while in the pocket. Even if he becomes a check down king...I will take that (completions) over (incompletions) just him understanding everything dnt have to be thrown deep down field...take what the defense gives him...#494life
    Sep 5, 2015 at 11:52 AM
  • ChaCha
    Pretty good article not written by a fundamentalist Alex Smith nutjob. Kap has done some amazing things on the field, the likes I've not seen since Young. He's also repeated some of the same bonehead crap we've seen over the last 10 years. This is his year - I just hope the team doesn't give him the same preference the last qb received. If he can't deliver he needs to be canned, sooner than later. I hope he can deliver and evolve into his potential. Fingers crossed.
    Sep 5, 2015 at 9:39 AM
  • Chris
    I fully trust Kap and I know he is going to come out strong this year! I wish so-called fans who see negatives instead of positives would find another team because it makes us look worse! I am confident we will shock most of the world!
    Sep 5, 2015 at 9:17 AM
  • Lindol
    Namath, Brady, Montana, Roethlisberger and Wilson had all won Super Bowls at 25. Kaepernick is older than Matthew Stafford. It's time to stop pretending that Kaepernick is young and misunderstood. He's gotten worse each of the last three years, and that's on him. I hope he flips a switch this year, but I'm certainly not counting on it.
    Sep 5, 2015 at 8:27 AM
  • Ron
    No quarterback can be successful while on his backside. If the offensive line doesn't improve in pass protection, it will be a long season!
    Sep 5, 2015 at 7:48 AM
  • Edd
    It's easy to dump on Kaep, but it's just not that simple. The 49ers offense was not designed to be some high scoring, go for broke passing machine. During his time, the O-Line has been terrible in pass protection. His receivers to date have been palookahs. Roman didn't call screen passes. Yes, I have seen bad decisions by Kaep, but he pretty much plays the offense he was given. Is this a make or break year for him? No. It's a make or break year for Trent Baalke. I think Baalke is a poser with no vision, and his decision to fire Harbaugh better provide results immediately.
    Sep 5, 2015 at 6:49 AM
  • Dennis Pettigrew
    "There were missed opportunities with newly acquired wide receiver Torrey Smith on a couple of deep balls, but those are things that can easily be fixed." He's been doing this for his entire pro career. If it was so easy to fix - why wasn't it fixed years ago?
    Sep 5, 2015 at 5:44 AM
  • JuNeDaWg
    Kap is like the worst when come to 3rd down conversions that keeps drives going and scoring TD in the 4th Q, which means he either can't put a game away or he cant lead a comeback in the 4th. Not what you want in a QB.
    Sep 5, 2015 at 5:39 AM
  • Marc
    Sorry Zain, this article reads like a "homer" who's paid by the 49ers. Fact is, statistically, lap has gotten worse each year. As of now, he lacks the vision of even a decent quarterback.
    Sep 5, 2015 at 5:33 AM
  • K-Ross
    Kaeper Vick will always be what he was trained to be.. A 1 read qb that holds onto the ball for an hour. Many qb's have had line problems and adjusted. I appreciate niner fans covering for him... I do.. But you never had to cover for joe cool. Kaep is good. But greatness means coming through in the clutch. Ever since his horrible choice to throw with 5seconds left in the Super Bowl, he has lost his confidence. Blame it on the line, the weather, the stadium. You choose.... But being a 49erfaithful isn't about blame shifting. It's about technique and skill. Kaep is a 1 read, make bad decisions, and bore the media to death QB. And the gabbert era will soon begin. I remember our whole stadium chanting "we want Carr" when Alexis smith was killing the team. When do we return to glory? When we get a QB in the game that wants to win from the pocket. Until then, it's excuses, blame shifting and cover ups... And we all know it.. Can't wait to see kaep get rg3'd
    Sep 5, 2015 at 5:27 AM
  • JuNeDaWg
    Kap is partly to blame for a lot of those 52 sacks, ok O line wasn't great but looking over the game tape you'll find that a simple dump off to the RB in the flat or hitting the hot read like most QB are taught would have eliminated some of those sacks but as soon as he feels pressure he pretty much abandons looking down the field and starts to run. No receivers will ever flourish under him because he only throws to one WR Boldin . He hasn't learned to scramble to buy time like R Wilson, he just tucks and run. I seen a lot of his runs when he takes off, receivers where open downfield. I mean all he had to do was step up in the pocket, side step a defender or scramble to buy time, then he would of spotted his receivers but no his to busy with his tunnel vision tucking and running. Also he takes a lot of unnecessary sacks when all he had to do was throw the ball away but he thinks he can get out of it with his legs. You know for a guy that has a lot of spectacular runs downfield his the worst at avoiding sack or just to buy more time for himself and his WR to get open.
    Sep 5, 2015 at 5:26 AM
  • Jim Walker
    An excellent, well written, thought proviking article. Colin Kaepernick can andwill produce if hehas the protection needed to have the time for 'poise' in the pocket! He isevertthingyou write about him, and more.
    Sep 5, 2015 at 12:21 AM
  • Big dog 4949
    Kap can't read a D to save his life and stares down his primary receiver. NEXT!!
    Sep 5, 2015 at 12:05 AM

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