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Colin Kaepernick Does Not Deserve All of the Blame

Oct 27, 2015 at 12:59 PM7

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It feels like QB Colin Kaepernick is being set up to be the fall guy for the San Francisco 49ers' 2015 season as Jim Harbaugh was in 2014. The 49ers, who are sitting at the bottom of the NFC West, are in disarray right now. It was expected. It was predicted. However, for the Niner Faithful, there was still hope that a coaching reboot would revitalize this team. It had the opposite effect. The team has regressed, looking more and more like the pre-2011 squads than the post-2011 ones.

Kaepernick deserves some of the blame. He doesn't always see open receivers. The ones he does see, he'll be just off target. His social media posts are often criticized. He won't take off those darn headphones for interviews. Now there are rumors of a locker room divide and that Kaepernick is 'alone on an island' among his teammates. Two things that head coach Jim Tomsula disputed on Tuesday morning during a radio interview. Worst of all, he is trying to be something that he isn't.

During Thursday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium, he did not run the ball once. A first in his career. Kaepernick spent the offseason trying to improve as a pocket passer. It was a good goal, but not at the cost of ignoring what made you so dangerous in the first place. There have been numerous times when Kaepernick could have taken off with the ball, but instead, he tried to stay in the pocket and make something happen with his arm rather than with his legs. What made Kaepernick so dangerous was that you had to defend the arm, but at the same time, you had to be ready for the run. He is a dangerous runner. It is an ability that might even mask some of the deficiencies of an absolutely abysmal offensive line.

Kaepernick was sacked six times by the Seahawks – the second-most he has had in a game during his career. He had a minus-1.3 rating from Pro Football Focus. Now he is traveling to St. Louis to face the Rams, who rank second in the NFL in sacks. Even scarier is that Kaepernick is on pace to be sacked a career high 57 times. Only Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, who has offensive line problems of their own, has been sacked more (31 times) than Kaepernick (25 times).

Some fans are calling for Kaepernick to be benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Yes, Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert looked decent in preseason, but it was preseason. The only thing that a Kaepernick benching might accomplish would be to see how another quarterback would fare behind the 49ers' poor pass protection. If they did happen to do better, it would not save the 49ers' season, but it might answer one of many questions.

The Trent Baalke Dilemma

As said, some of the blame belongs to Kaepernick. However, a lot of the blame belongs to general manager Trent Baalke. His failures to properly restock this team around its signal caller is the real reason for the 49ers' demise. While blame was mostly placed on Harbaugh last season, CEO Jed York may finally be realizing that perhaps that blame was misplaced. Baalke's best-player-available draft strategy is a good one … if your team is already loaded with talent. Baalke seems to make a lot of 'potential' picks. Guys who are injured now but could be solid contributors once they are fully recovered. For the record, none of those guys have really panned out for Baalke and the team. There is still hope for WR DeAndre Smelter, but probably not for this season.

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In Baalke's defense, he may not have been able to predict T Anthony Davis' abrupt retirement. Davis' decision caused the 49ers to scramble to fill in the gaps along the offensive line. The problem was how he addressed the holes within that unit. Apparently his hand selected draft picks were not ready yet. He traded for G Jordan Devey, a guy that New England Patriots fans thought might get QB Tom Brady killed one day, and signed T Erik Pears. These two, along with out of place C Marcus Martin, make that entire right side of the offensive line a liability. The trio consistently rank as some of the worst in the league according to Pro Football Focus.

Baalke also took a project defensive end in Arik Armstead rather than addressing one of the team's weakest positions – like cornerback. Now, Armstead has shown some flashes, but there were bigger needs at the time.

Then there is the now famous 2012 49ers draft. None of those players are with the team anymore. Baalke's deal will end in 2016. Will he be back? Chris Biderman of Niners Digest wrote an interesting piece titled "Put yourself in the shoes of the key figures of the latest 49ers melodrama" that is worth a read.

When Kaepernick flourished, his teams had defenses and offensive lines that were the envy of the NFL. He was backed by a powerful running game and a coaching staff that did a phenomenal job of hiding any team weaknesses.

The Selection of a New Coaching Staff

There is no need to further defend the former coaching staff. They are gone and they are not coming back. It is a dead horse and quite frankly, people are probably tired of hearing about it. The issue is that when the 49ers decided to clean house, they did so in a manner that made it tough to acquire other talented coaches. Head coach Jim Tomsula seems like a good guy. The thought was always that, like Kaepernick, he could do well if the proper pieces were placed around him. That didn't happen. He was a positional coach that was thrown into a head coaching job and it showed during early interviews with the media.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

No one bought into a "mutual parting" between the 49ers and Harbaugh. Coaches interviewed for coordinator jobs, but it didn't really feel like anyone wanted to come to San Francisco after the Harbaugh-Gase-Tomsula fiasco. After all, the team had just fired a coaching staff that had taken their team to three consecutive NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl because management did not get along with the head coach. What kind of job security was that? It all seemed so childish.

Their head coaching search originally looked as though it would land on former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase. It sounded like a done deal. However, at the last minute, the 49ers allegedly demanded that Gase make Tomsula their defensive coordinator, which did not fly well with Gase. He said no. He had his own staff in mind, which may have included keeping Vic Fangio – a Harbaugh guy – as the defensive coordinator. That's when the talks ended and the 49ers pretended that Tomsula was always their top choice. It was obvious that Gase was not going to be the Yes Man that the team was looking for.

After trying to put some talent around Tomsula, the team had to settle for promoting Kaepernick's quarterback coach, Geep Chryst, to offensive coordinator. Their tight ends coach, Eric Mangini, became their defensive coordinator. Steve Logan, a guy who had not coached since 2011, who's claim to fame is that he helped develop Matt Ryan at Boston College, who was last a football analyst on the radio, and who was on Tomsula's staff in 2006 in NFL Europe, became Kaepernick's new quarterback coach. Maybe he should have been the one to tell Kaepernick, "Improving as a pocket passer is good, but add it to your skill set and use it in addition to your God given talents."

York and Baalke in Hiding

Jim Tomsula is the face of the franchise now. Team CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke do not speak to the media during the season. Members of the media have requested interviews this season, but have been denied. This is not a bad thing when you are winning. However, at 2-5 with most fans calling for the heads of management, a lot could be eased with an appearance. Baalke had insisted all offseason that the team is "reloading" and avoided the other dreaded R-word, "rebuilding." The real problem is that Baalke may have actually believed that. There is no doubt that the team is rebuilding now and one has to wonder if Baalke should be part of those plans anymore.

Jed York was once the golden boy among the fans. During his reign, the 49ers returned to their winning ways and even built a shiny new home in Levi's Stadium. Things have since fallen apart. York told fans to hold him accountable if things did not work out. He insisted that the team was making moves with a Super Bowl as the goal. The fans were not stupid. Most saw through it then and even more see through it now. York has become the most hated individual in Bay Area sports. Coming out and saying, "I was wrong. We are going to fix this" and showing that he is actually upset by the current circumstances would go a long way. He should take ownership of his mistakes. Of course, that probably will not come until after the season as the team scrambles to make some changes.

Until then, we will just have to brace ourselves for this ride.


  • Should Trent Baalke be given another chance in 2016?
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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.


  • Stephanie
    Go after Drew Brees! Bring him to SF.
    Dec 27, 2015 at 3:54 PM
  • Dear Dork
    Niner you are right Dorks to blame. Fans need to write a letter to dorks Lets do it.
    Oct 28, 2015 at 10:14 PM
  • niner
    watch the warriors last night? they are good , with thompson and looney , getting better. the works turn gold into pooh. exaggeration... they did all this with mooch 10 years ago. we went through 10 years of misery because they got rid the good players and dumpster dived for coaches. the only way these guys are like the warriors you dict york, is the the cohan/rowell warriors... utterly worthless. Balks drafting is plain out pitiful ( reid was harbaughs choice) sell the team to some billionaires, you get your gold, we get owners who want to win. ( see warriors, sf giants, seattle seahawks)
    Oct 28, 2015 at 1:25 PM
  • Joseph Mendoza
    I will be the few and say Harbaugh needs to be blamed for drafting kaepernick. Funny as a qb his best stats were 2013 and 2014. Ranked like 20th and 21. Behind guys like bortles, rookie carr, and omg...mccown. lol. Let's face it. Kap is to be blame alot and deservingly so. I believe harbaugh is too. The great 49ers defense was really built by the coaching staffs before harbaugh and harbaugh just put the puzzle in place. My oppinion. I still still think kap can be great, however he needs to listen to his qb coaches cause it's obviously doest listen. Or the qb coaches don't know how to fix him. I see one huge fundamental flaw in Kaps mechanics that can simply ...yes simply be fixed and this fix would fix about 80% of his have my email. I Can elaborate if you want. In the meantime. The 9ers in my oppion. Has the best offense in the nfcwest. We just need a qb to be even mediocre to show the talent...meaning right now kap is wayyey less than mediocre.
    Oct 28, 2015 at 1:08 PM
  • Dave Barnes
    David Bonilla this is the most honest article regarding the 9ers current situation I have read up to date. As I recall it was Kapernick's running ability that was the reason we chose him over Alex as Alex was having a good year when he was replaced. But he never had Alex's acuracy or touch when it came to throwing. For me bottom line is the most important aspect of being a nfl QB is the arm and the intellect to understand where the receiver locations on a given play; if he can run that's extra but not essential. As for acquiring a good coach that will never happen until we lose Baalke. It's never healthy for a team to have a GM who buts his ego ahead of the teams success.
    Oct 28, 2015 at 11:00 AM
  • RishikeshA
    Thanks David, Charley Casserly said it best, Kap is an athlete playing QB. The instincts and touch are not there. His confidence is low and he tries not to make mistakes instead of attacking. He cannot lead receivers and once the pocket collapses he panics. Sure, he could advance with a top O-Line and a suffocating D, can we wait that long. His attitude and adolescent approach does not come off well to the fan base. Right now I feel like I'm watching a train wreck each week. This team needs a reboot from the ownership down to management, coaching and players. I can't root for the Yorks, they are the anti Eddie D.
    Oct 27, 2015 at 7:29 PM
  • ninersush
    David i agree with what you have here. i was of the thought that harbaugh's shortcomings as a coach were holding this team back. this year we have had a chance to see baalke's picks. they have largely sucked. i was hoping against reason that tomsula would be able to keep us respectable and relevant. that was about as reliable as the titanic. so we are left with the truth that our roster has a lot of holes, our coaches are not good enough, and our gm can't draft well. that screams total rebuild to me. we can get back to being relevant in 1-2 years. but we need to make the right moves. hopefully Jed does that. maybe we need to fire baalke in season so we can start the search for a new regime. i think if things get bad enough that may happen. and i hate to lose, but for the future of this franchise we need to just suck ass badly the rest of this year so this dumpster fire becomes a out of control raging forest fire that can't be ignored. then only will we see a regime change. so here's to playing like the 0-16 lions the rest of the way out. its out medicine we need to take to get better.
    Oct 27, 2015 at 2:02 PM

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