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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Will 49ers’ Kaepernick Suffer Same Fate as RGIII?

Sep 9, 2015 at 2:29 PM


Ever since Colin Kaepernick became the 49ers' starting quarterback in 2012, the football world has been enamored with his athleticism, both fans and critics alike. After all, watching Kaepernick take off down the field is like witnessing a long-striding gazelle bound across open plains: it's a rare display of natural talent. It's this same talent that has put his every move under the microscope this offseason. An exodus of players. Ongoing trade rumors. Refined mechanics. A new offense. A lackluster preseason. Just name your poison and chances are Colin Kaepernick has been subjected to it.

Now you can add this to the list, courtesy of Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post: Kaepernick is poised to follow in Robert Griffin's footsteps, whose epic fall has taken him from the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to third-string backup for the Washington Redskins, behind the likes of Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy.

It's tempting to compare the two quarterbacks. Both are dual-threat athletes with big contracts. Both had breakout seasons in 2012. Both have experienced similar challenges, whether it's accuracy problems, poor mechanics, or even the occasional social media foul. It's true, both quarterbacks have struggled to transition into a more traditional pocket-passer role, but make no mistake, Griffin's downfall is a different narrative entirely—one that is marred by significant injuries, misguided blame, and lost trust.

Despite having his own rough-and-tumble season, Kaepernick finds himself in a very different situation. His teammates speak of him as a strong leader with a relentless work ethic. He spent the offseason correcting his mechanics with two-time MVP Kurt Warner. Although the 49ers parted ways with the majority of their 2014 coaching staff, Kaepernick still has plenty of familiar supporters within the organization, such as general manager Trent Baalke, head coach Jim Tomsula, and even owner Jed York (for what it's worth). In an interview with Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News, new offensive coordinator Geep Chryst reminded fans that former head coach Jim Harbaugh wasn't the only one to push for the selection of the athletic quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft.

"Kap's part of that draft class with a lot of quarterbacks—including Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Andy Dalton," said Chryst. "We fell in love with Kap from jump street. And I would say here, five years down the road looking back, I'd still like to get Kap if we'd had the first draft pick."

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Believing in Kaepernick is one thing, but helping him succeed is another. The greatest impact in Kaepernick's development will come down to offensive philosophy and how Chryst constructs a more quarterback-friendly system than his predecessor, Greg Roman. In his last season with the 49ers, Roman received mounting criticism for a less-than-stellar passing offensive. "I don't see wide receiver screens," said former quarterback and CBS Sports analyst Chris Simms. "I don't see running back screens. Very rarely are there easy slam-dunk completions, which are a part of any really good offense."

Around this time last year, Roman told the media that, "I for one love throwing to the [running] backs because a lot of times people forget about them." In that same season, Kaepernick connected with Frank Gore only 11 times. Gore, for his part, is no slouch when it comes to catching the ball. From 2007 to 2010, he amassed 194 receptions, over 1,600 yards and eight touchdowns. Twenty-one of those receptions resulted in explosive plays that went for 20+ yards. In his four seasons with Roman, Gore only reached 72 receptions, 600 receiving yards, and scored just twice. The number of big-time receptions? Four. Even if the 49ers harness a fragment of this production from their tailbacks it could pay big dividends for their quarterback.

Some critics might be quick to point out Kaepernick's mediocre performance in the preseason, completing 5 of 13 passes for 40 yards and no touchdowns. As Tomsula recently explained, the 49ers' goal was to take Kaepernick out of his comfort zone, testing both the quarterback and his makeshift offensive line in drop-back situations. Once the season kicks off, opposing defenses are more likely to see Kaepernick roll away from pressure the same way backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert did during the preseason, posting a 108.8 passer rating. Between rollouts, swing passes, and an up-tempo offense, Kaepernick might have the support he needs to build on his confidence, convert third downs, and consistently move the offense down the field as a passer.

This, along with the 49ers' offensive personnel, could help Kaepernick take a significant step forward. The team's wide receiver core is arguably the most talented Kaepernick has ever had, with the addition of deep-threat Torrey Smith, the consistent Anquan Boldin, and emerging impact players like Bruce Ellington. Reggie Bush, another offseason acquisition, will provide a proven receiver out of the backfield, and Kaepernick could also enjoy a resurgence with some familiar faces like tight end Vernon Davis. Only two-seasons removed from being the 49ers' second leading receiver, Davis looks motivated to prove he is still a big-play threat as he enters the last year of his contract. The biggest question mark, of course, is the retooled offensive line. As 49ers Webzone's Jesse Dumas points out, what might be viewed as a negative could turn into a positive out of sheer necessity with the 49ers emphasizing screens, bootlegs, and play action to offset blitzing defenses.

Kaepernick will not be the next Tom Brady or Joe Montana, but does that mean his only alternative is to suffer the same fate as Griffin? Yes, there's work to be done, especially after a season where the strong-armed quarterback threw for a career-high 10 interceptions, was sacked 52 times, and posted a fourth quarter passer rating of 60.3. But no one knows this better than Kaepernick himself. Often pegged as the first one to arrive at the 49ers' facility and the last one to leave, Kaepernick looks determined to write his own destiny.

"He has a strong, burning desire to be great," Chryst said in his interview with Purdy. "Not just to be good, but great. And I think that's something you can tap into as a coach and that the teammates can respect."
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


15 Comments

  • Niz
    Your optimism is admirable Sir Bradley. Kaepernick must not fall victim to the intoxicating allure of scrambling too often though, or he most certainly will fall victim to injury.
    Sep 11, 2015 at 5:42 PM
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  • Corey
    To Tim... Peyton Manning
    Sep 10, 2015 at 9:24 AM
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  • Tim
    To Newton... Which QB in the NFL has a horrible offensive line and makes them look good because they can pass quickly?
    Sep 10, 2015 at 8:35 AM
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  • newton
    A good QB can make the OL look good because of his ability to quick scan/read/release. Don't blame the line if the QB holds on the ball too long. Especially in WCO, he should know where the receivers are and where the outlets are.
    Sep 10, 2015 at 7:14 AM
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  • Mike D
    Kap won huge road playoff games, one play away from winning a super bowl and one play away from going to another. Kap even plays hurt. What has RG3 done? Never won a playoff game, and can barely become a starter on his own team. Maybe similar QBs, but Kap far out much better then RG3
    Sep 9, 2015 at 5:12 PM
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  • mbn iner
    RGIII was arrogant and stupid. His off-season prep was minimal, he thought he knew more than the coach (and had that idiot Snyder to run and cry to) and refused to protect himself when he ran. How many hard hits have you seen Kaep take, even when he's sacked? He knows how to slide and use the sidelines to avoid hits. RGIII has the physical talent to be special but not the mindset. Kaep has both. We'll see starting Mon if all the effort he has put in, and the coaching, will pay dividends. But, no matter what, he is not an RGIII.
    Sep 9, 2015 at 4:52 PM
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  • GaryM
    oops...that was 4 TDs vs. Brady.
    Sep 9, 2015 at 4:26 PM
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  • KezarVet
    Kap has 4 playoff wins in 2.5 seasons despite working for a HC and OC who were great with power running but had no clue as to how to run a pro style offense. He was handcuffed. Yet he still managed to be 3-0 vs. Rodgers, throw for 3 TDs in a win over Brady on the road in the rain, and set an NFL record with 181 yds rushing in a playoff game. This season he'll finally be turned loose by JimmyT who will be a strong candidate for Coach of the Year.
    Sep 9, 2015 at 4:23 PM
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  • JD
    Oh, and a another difference to add is that the Redskins have options that played better than RGIII. The 49ers do not.
    Sep 9, 2015 at 4:17 PM
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  • JD
    This is a great read. As the article points out, the comparison from the Washington Post article is a bit ridiculous. Kap has already accomplished more than RGIII. The only thing that worries me is the o-line. There is one whole side that just isn't very good. I'm worried that this will further frustrate Kap and not only sack him physically, but mentally as well.
    Sep 9, 2015 at 4:09 PM
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  • Dave
    So much is going to depend on the offensive line - the more time he has, the better he will do. But last year's line, while very good in run blocking was not very good at pass blocking...and this year's line is worse. So could get ugly. Regarding not seeing more slam-dunk short throws to RBs, etc, and last year only having so many. A lot of that is on Kap. I can't remember how many, many times I saw Gore peel out of the backfield with nobody around him and Kap threw it somewhere else...trying to squeeze a 15-20 yard throw into tight coverage instead of the easy dump-off. It's either "horrible" vision on his part or he just keeps looking for the home-run completion, etc. Anyway, the philosophy with the offense the last couple of years - the back "is" there to throw too if he's not back blocking, Kap just aint taking advantage of it. Did anyone see Aaron Rogers article on the top three things he does to prevent interceptions? The first thing was "never throw a premeditated pass...ever." You will hardly ever get caught staring down a receiver. That's the biggest issue I have with Kap. You expect guys in their first couple years to do this as they learn. But he still has a problem.
    Sep 9, 2015 at 4:07 PM
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  • SMH
    This is an awful article
    Sep 9, 2015 at 3:59 PM
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  • newton
    If KP cuts down on his fumbles, he will have a much better stats. Take those outlet passes with faster read/release, protect the ball and make a few runs. If Russel Wilson can make it, I think KP can do much better. IMHO, coaching and offensive schemes have a lot to do with KP's success.
    Sep 9, 2015 at 3:22 PM
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  • Brandon
    Hell naw just to start. He's proven with his numbers he's better than RG3, the player he replaced and most of the others in his position. His line last year was makeshift, proven by the many sacks, his options were from Harbaugh in his helmet, when he was let to play his way it was awesome. WR core was Boldin and ....
    Sep 9, 2015 at 2:57 PM
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  • Sean
    Love the positive article. I hope Kap can turn things around.
    Sep 9, 2015 at 2:57 PM
    0

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