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Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers’ O-line are a disaster

Al Sacco
Sep 28, 2015 at 7:49 AM28

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The San Francisco 49ers have a major issue at the quarterback position. In reality, it's been there for some time, but I guess there were enough games being won that it could be swept under the rug. We labeled the poor play as just a young player who was developing. Well that "development" is in it's fourth year now, and the results should be a lot better than what they are.

The truth is that Colin Kaepernick isn't the type of quarterback you can build your team around. Instead, he's at best a complimentary piece who needs a dominant running game and strong defense to win games. That's fine if you just want him to be a game manager, it's not fine when you gave him a $100 million contract to be the centerpiece of your team.

On the surface, his stats look fine. He's 26-16 as a starter in the regular season, with 52 touchdown passes and 25 interceptions overall. It's a decent line, but it's not until you peel that initial layer away that you start to see the real problems.

Kaepernick is inaccurate, struggles to read defenses, and has a hard time finding the open man. He often forgets about mechanics, still thinking he can be successful throwing off his back foot. While he can make plays in spurts, he lacks the consistency to really be able to move the offense.

Need proof? Well, a quarterback's job is to help his team score points, right? In the past 13 games, the 49ers have scored 20 points or less 11 times. Looking deeper, they've actually scored 18 or less in nine of those 13 games.That's what they call a trend, folks.

Currently, the Niners are the lowest scoring team in the league at 15 points per game and have only managed five touchdowns. That's especially bad when you consider five of the last eight quarters have basically been garbage time and they still can't put the ball in the endzone. Only the Chicago Bears have scored fewer touchdowns than the 49ers in 2015 and, going back to last season, San Francisco has 35 touchdowns in their last 19 games (or about 1.84 per contest). That's Jacksonville Jaguars' level ineptitude and, if you're wondering, the Jags have 29 touchdowns in that same time frame.

Kaepernick's had such a hard time managing the nuances of the quarterback position, that the coaching staff has admittedly stripped down the playbook for him. This isn't a rookie who doesn't know the offense, this is someone with 48 career starts (including the playoffs). In fact, the Arizona Cardinals' players found the 49ers' passing offense so elementary in Week 3, that they believed they knew what was coming .

"Their passing game has been simplified so much, it was easy for us to anticipate routes, said Cardinals' cornerback Tyrann Mathieu."

"We had a bead on what those guys like to do," said safety Rashad Johnson. "... I think Kaepernick was a little bit uncomfortable all game. There were guys in his face and he was never able to step in and throw it. He was always a little bit behind on his throws.

It got so bad, that the 49ers ran the ball on 13 straight plays early in the first half, even though they were down by two and three scores at the time. According to head coach Jim Tomsula, that was his call to try and calm everyone down. Wouldn't it have been better to get your quarterback a few safe throws to get his confidence back? Or maybe Tomsula didn't trust Kaepernick to do even that.

What's getting scary now is that the frustration with Kaepernick is starting to mount with the players. It's one thing for Michael Crabtree to knock him on the way out the door, but it's another for his own running back, Carlos Hyde, to slam him after a bad performance.

"I mean, it's not that you can't throw that," Hyde said. "It's just that you can't make that turnover. There were guys open. The ball just dropped down to the other person.

Now I'm not in any way condoning what Hyde said. It was unprofessional and you should never throw a teammate under the bus to the media. Inexcusable. But he did say it, and to think he's the only one that feels that way would be naive. What it does is give the impression that there's a rift developing in the 49ers' locker room. Considering it's possible things will get worse before they get better, this is a bad omen moving forward.

What makes matters worse is that even if the light did go on at some point for Kaepernick, the offensive line is so bad it might not matter. The retirement of Anthony Davis and injury to Daniel Kilgore has crippled this unit, and the decisions to replace them have failed.

Erik Pears and Jordan Devey are not starters in the league. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, especially someone who's running an actual NFL franchise. According to Pro Football Focus, Devey graded out at a minus-19 for the New England Patriots last season, and Pears had a negative-25 rating at guard for the Buffalo Bills in 2014. Pears was almost as ineffective at tackle the year before, finishing 55th out of 76 qualifiers.

Still, instead of moving Alex Boone over to right tackle and trying to make an impact move (i.e. a serious run at Evan Mathis), the 49ers tried to fool themselves into thinking what they had was good enough. The results are eight sacks through three games and a sack percentage of 8.1 percent. Not to mention the amount of times this unit has shot themselves in the foot with bad penalties or bonehead plays.

Tomsula has to change things up now, even if that means only benching Devey and seeing what someone like Brandon Thomas or Andrew Tiller can do. I mean, honestly, they couldn't play much worse.

As far as Kaepernick goes, he's not losing his least not yet. Blaine Gabbert doesn't offer much in the way of competition, and for some reason the team has relied on signing failed starters to be their backup (Gabbert, Colt McCoy), rather then drafting someone they felt they could develop should Kaepernick falter. Kaepernick simply has to get better, and soon, or the dark ages could be on their way back in San Francisco.

Al Sacco has covered the 49ers for various sites over the years. He's been a guest on multiple podcasts and had his work used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY. Follow Al on Twitter @AlSacco49
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.


  • Baalke Must Go!!!
    Kaepernick: Has never been an accurate passer and never will be. Saw him play in college and his passing accuracy was terrible even then. Could not understand why the 49ers drafted him - hello, he is not an accurate passer!!! Now that the team around his is weaker (thanks to Baalke) his weakness has been exposed. Kap is a coach killer period. It is madness to think that he can improve after 4 years. The team needs to replace him and move on. Another thing - what other QB in the NFL addresses the media with his cap worn backward? Grow up man and at least try to act the part. Baalke: No really good coach would consider coaching the 49ers as long as Baalke is the GM. That is why the 49ers settled on Tomsula. To hire a coach who was a head coach (I don't recognize NFL Europe) or coordinator at the NFL level is unbelievable. Compare Baalke's draft choices and free agent signings with other teams and you see why the 49ers are in deep s''''. The team will only improve by hiring a new GM. Baalke must go!! Jed York: Can't you read the writing on the wall? Have some balls and replace Baalke. The 49er nation deserves better.
    Oct 6, 2015 at 8:09 PM
  • King of Don
    All ya dum ass fuck aways talking about kap the Qb but u guys don't see how garbage how are defence was and offensive line not helping him ????
    Oct 3, 2015 at 11:13 PM
  • Old dirty G
    Kap is a back up QB at best. Sorry folks. Being a "faithful fan" has nothing to do with evaluating talent. I have news for you mindless drones..." THE EMPORER HAS NO CLOTHES!!" . If you haven't read the book, it's the story of Kap and the inner fans. Lol. ..........The good news is we will probably lose the rest of our games with Kap so we should get a crack at the Cal QB, Goff. But we will probably f that up like the last time we had a chance at a great QB in our own back yard and passed. Remember Aeron Rodgers anyone ?
    Oct 3, 2015 at 11:57 AM
  • Carolina niner
    Yes finally someone gets it besides me. I mean really why does kaep try to force throws and just determined to hit one receiver. The Vikings game he was looking both sides of field, plus oline had stepped up that game too. The injured players had been a bust and its killing us.
    Oct 2, 2015 at 12:56 PM
  • Niner
    York is planning to get rid of Kap and very now that harbaugh fangio Roman gore iupati Willis smith brothers etc...are gone. They did it after mooch. They don't care about winning, they only went to harbaugh because the franchise lost value compared to other teams. Noe he has his stadium he couldn't care less what garbage is fielded. Ever hear them say hiring the miserable Nolan or clueless singletary was a mistake? He is happy in Ohio watching soccer with his mom laughing at the fans and his nobody coaches.
    Sep 30, 2015 at 11:23 PM
  • Bearsky
    York's are the root cause of all this mess. GM's , coaches, QB's, etc., will come and go. They will just be the latest scapegoat. It will go on for decades. Nothing will change until the ownership changes. These are the York Niners folks. Not the Eddie D. Niners. If this is what you enjoy supporting, good for you! Long as you are aware of what this team really is and is not!
    Sep 30, 2015 at 5:35 PM
  • Upchurch
    Keapernick is a slide in slide out type QB.Do the 49ers want to win a supper bowl no if so they would alternate the QB spot like offence line but no they want to loos games to a QBs name smh.I'll take RG3 before Keap.He is terrible I mean terrible.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 11:58 AM
  • Sardo Numspa
    I have been a Niner fan for a long time and I will admit I was very disappointed with Kap's performance. 2 pick 6's and 1 came four plays later? Come on, they need to get Kap back up to elite performance or this will be a painful year for us. Yes, we let Harbaugh go which wasn't the best choice we made the playoffs each year with him except the last year, which he was leaving anyway. 2 blowouts games back to back isn't making me as a fan feel confidence in my team with Green Bay coming this Sunday. Now before all the other fans say that I am not loyal, they can miss me with all that BS. They feel just like I do and depending on how this Sunday goes there may be more frustrating to add to the pot.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 10:09 AM
  • Gary
    The 49ers organization will regret getting rid of Jim hardball for a long time. He was the answer he knew how to coach Karpernick
    Sep 29, 2015 at 9:43 AM
  • Nukeasfinest
    Maybe he should do more crunches and barbell curls I'm sure that'll do the trick.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 12:58 AM
  • 49ers4life
    Maybe they need to go back to the alternative uniforms for a spark..Seriously, Kap can't do anything but improve after that horrible performance so I think he will bounce back. Something has to be done fast because it's never good when the opponent says your offense is predictable.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 1:35 PM
  • Daniners
    Couple things: A bunch of people below are making excuses for Kaepernick. Stop. There are none. He has not developed much in 4 years and continues to make too many mistakes. Right now, he is inconsistent at best. Our coaching staff is clearly getting out-coached, and out-maneuvered at every turn. Tomsula looks like he has never been head coach (obviously, he has not), and the others, like they have not coached in a while, or were recently fired (affirmative to both). Not great. Oline is terrible. We all knew it would be. Shame on Baalke. He should be fired if this team does not improve quickly. I believe, the 49ers have had the most draft picks since 2011 and the fewest number of Pro Bowl/impact players over that same time (Aldon Smith and Eric Reid). That's not good. Just looking at this fact, he should probably be fired. He really has done a suspect job of drafting talent since taking over as GM.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 1:30 PM
  • jedediahyork
    Sorry, but this game wasn't the OLs fault. Kap had plenty of time to make reads and throw. He just held on to the ball too long and didn't throw until the receivers were well out of their cuts, and the defenders had a read on the route. This was 100%, hands down, Kap.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 1:19 PM
  • Plex
    Sorry folks, it's not just about Kap. The Yorks have gutted both the coaching staff and and the talent on this team. We are about $12 mil under the cap right now and are paying the coaching staff about half what we paid last year. Tomsula is the lowest paid head coach in the NFL. Where does that money go? The pockets of the Yorks. The Yorks are not trying nearly hard enough to make this a place for winners. #FireTheYorks
    Sep 28, 2015 at 1:07 PM
  • Always Faithful
    It amazes me how quickly people are willing to forget Kap's brilliance and just tear him apart. But that is the new norm, build an athlete up so they can crucify him later. There are a lot of other QB's in the NFL that make more mistakes and nothing is said. For the Faithful, Kap is our guy. And I hope the team backs him up. Or they are just as big of losers as the fair weather fans.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 12:48 PM
  • Nick
    It is not surprising to learn that Kap has trouble reading a D... the real shame is not getting replacements on the O-Line by management and thinking that Devey and Piers can do the job. Also not drafting injured players or players that are considered "long term projects" as first and second rounders...
    Sep 28, 2015 at 12:34 PM
  • Nonya
    Kap had his worst day as a pro yesterday.. happens to the best of them. This coaching staff and GM own this trainwreck of a start. This head coach reminds me of a Led Zeppelin song.. Dazed and confused. Mangini.. no different. Maybe just maybe if Kap had more than 1 second of "pass protection" he wouldnt be so nervous back there. I cant imagine its real fun getting smashed by big giant fellows over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Trash GM..trash owner..trash head coach and staff. Except Tommy Rathman.. who actually knows what he's doing.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 12:28 PM
  • big mike
    Kap has peaked. His inability 2 improve technically and read defenses is very disappointing. If they are still trimming the playbook down in ur 4th year of starting that says a lot about you as a qb. Ur playbook should be increasing. We missed on a unique talent that lacks mental instincts and anticipation without the ability 2 throw with touch. So begins the next chapter and pursuit of the elusive franchise qb...smh...shouldnt have been like this Kap.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 12:11 PM
  • A real fan
    we gave Alex 7yrs before he showed anything. You gotta ride with your QB no matter what. I can't stand Fairweather fans. As for Hyde, you have to earn the right to talk shit young boy!!! He has no class for that comment and does not fit the 49er way of conduct. I ridin wit Kap to the end...A REAL NINER FAITHFUL
    Sep 28, 2015 at 10:52 AM
  • Troy
    EVERYONE is all up on Kap and offense and deserving so, but defense can't stop anybody
    Sep 28, 2015 at 10:43 AM
  • hector
    I keep on my mind Kap's first start vs CHI on MNF. He was a daring, cunning double threat QB and made me dream he could become just as Steve Young or Randall Cunningham but truth is turn into another Tebow at best. If guys like Harbaugh, Whitfield and Giles, QB gurus who worked with him make you wonder why is he not improving into an elite passer? Alex Smith was on the same boat before Harbaugh gave him a fresh new start then, why Kaepernick not? He's a hard worker, loved by coaches and players equally...well that doesn't make you a true QB. It's true he spend more time studying films to improve his flaws but is not the same when you're on the field with defenders going after your head and it's something you might wonder if he's capable to put together not only his unit but the whole team. Being demoted by your own coaches to change plays or fix things on gameday since Harb was there affect you a lot but more than that is not being asked to do more than just be a game manager. His status as a leader is questionable because he always go into a corner with his position coach and the other QBs rather get involved with all your teammates and fix things to improve. Only time will tell
    Sep 28, 2015 at 9:48 AM
  • VaNiner
    Yes. It looks like Kap has hit a wall and a ceiling. What this coaching staff does to coach him up, and how long they stick with Kap will determine Balke and Tomasula's immediate future. Balke has the presence to sign an opt out contract with Kaepernick. Kap was a Harbaugh guy. There may be a solid reason and a plan why Blaine Gabbert is featured in the preseason and is one of the rare back up QB's earning seven figures. As for the o-line, the arrogance that Boone should not play right tackle is befuddling. Let the young players play.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 9:33 AM
  • Tim
    I find it comical that Andrew Luck can have enormously crappy games over and over, even in the playoffs... and is still a top 5 QB in this league. Kaepernick who has a 4-2 playoff record has his team and coaching staff stripped from him and struggles behind a horrible o line and plays really badly for ONE game and its over. He sucks.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 9:16 AM
  • rjberryx
    Ownership and management is not perfect, but the root cause of the teams problems in my opinion is the absence of Kilgore, and the abrupt "retirement" of Davis. Until the right side of the line is solid, it is unreasonable to believe Kap can improve. He simply has no time or confidence in his protection to execute basic reads or mechanics, much less improve. All other team issues are secondary, in my opinion until this is addressed/fixed.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 8:50 AM
  • Sean
    Blaine Gabbert should be playing. Can't do any worse.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 8:42 AM
  • GD
    When you're the best player on the team (Hyde), you can say any true thing you want about lesser players.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 8:41 AM
  • Stevebanzai
    We went in the Dark Ages last year at the very least, it just gets darker. To my mind Jed and Trent are lost and not up to the task. Jed should not be involved in any and I mean any football decisions. Ego's, desire for control, thinking you're the brand, messaging that feels like its more important to be PC than win football games. And Trent is equally if not more to blame although Jed gave him the position and power to dig the hole. Can't you keep Harbaugh and say "bye" to Roman or work out concessions? If you want to make the light switch and shine on you, shouldn't you restock with professional talent for a coaching staff instead of men that wont fight or question authority? At this point, "in Baalke we trust" should be equally under that spotlight. Even if Alex wasn't under his watch, Kaep was. His strategy approaching the draft has been suspect, especially when you consider key first and second rounders in light of the available talent. If you get that wrong, who cares about how many draft picks you amass. When you start counting all the bright spots from UDFA's (undrafted free agents), somethings wrong.
    Sep 28, 2015 at 8:40 AM
  • NinerFan4Life
    Let's blame upper management. They don't have a clue. We are back when Erickson was a coach, Nolan, Singletary. We will be the laughing stock of the NFL league. NFC west is not as strong as people think. Only two teams will compete year in and year out. The Hawks and Cards. Rams will always be 3rd in the NFC West division. Niners rock bottom, until owner gets his head out of his.....Maybe we need Jerry Jones to buy them
    Sep 28, 2015 at 8:22 AM

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