It is extremely rare to see an NFL quarterback excel during his first full year at the helm, let alone lead their team to the Superbowl. The great Joe Montana did it in 1981, his first full year starting as the starting QB. However, he took over the position mid-way through 1980. It would be unfair to either Kaepernick or Montana to compare them as the eras and rules were different back then. There is, however, one quarterback in the modern era who started and won the Superbowl the same year he took over as the starting quarterback: Tom Brady.
Brady, like Colin Kapernick replaced a good but not great quarterback in Drew Bledsoe. He took the reign on a team with an established upper echelon defense. Sound familiar? Brady had good but not great stats in his regular season. However, he displayed flashes of brilliance with games of 364 yards 2 TD and 258 yards 4 TD. Brady's 15.5 game season stats that year were 2843 yards, 18 TD and 12 INT. To have any meaningful comparison, we must extrapolate Brady and Kaepernick’s stats to a full 16 game season. Extrapolated over a full 16 games his stats would be 2934 yards 18.6 TD and 12.4 INT.
Colin Kaepernick only has 8 full games under his belt his first year. We’d have to extrapolate his stats over the full season as well for a meaningful comparison. Colin's 1814 yards over 8.5 games of 10 TD, 3 INT extrapolated over 16 games would be 3414 yards, 18.8 TD, and 5.6 INT. What jumps out at you is not the 3400 yards or the 19 TD but the miniscule 5.6 interceptions, an unheard of .3 interception to touch down ratio for a first year starter. Aaron Rodgers who had statistically one of the best if not the best first year careers in the NFL had 13 INT and 28 TD, a .46 INT/TD ratio. Kaepernick's rushing stats extrapolated would add another 781 yards and 9.4 TD. For sake of argument, we’re going to drop this stats as it wouldn’t be fair to Tom Brady.
Kaepernick first three games have improvements that exceed Brady's. In Brady’s first two games he managed only 168 and 86 yards respectively before exploding for 364 yards and 2 TD. Kaepernick's first three games all exceed 200 yards with his first full game in prime time at 243 yards and 2 TD. With such rapid improvements, could Kaepernick have exceeded 3400 yard and 19 TD if he played over a full season? I believe it is likely.
Brady's breakout performance in the playoffs was the one against Oakland, the infamous "tuck rule" game. In it, he passed for 312 yards passing, 1 rushing TD, and 1 INT. Kaepernick's breakout performance was his first playoff game against Green Bay with 263 yards passing with 2 TD, 2 rush TD, and 1 INT. He rushed and broke the all-time record for a quarterback with 181 yards.
As a pure passer, Kaepernick is at least equal if not better than Brady at the same point in their careers. Yet, people still doubted his abilities in the regular season until his breakout playoff game against Green Bay.
There’s a saying that goes, "there’s lies, damned lies, and statistics." You can stretch statistics to show you anything you want. What does my armchair quarterbacking\coaching\analyst eyes tell me about this guy after years of watching the greats such as Montana, Young and Garcia (you better believe it!)? I may be biased or I may be seeing what I want to see but I believe Kaepernick is a transcendent athlete, a singular talent who only comes around once in a generation.
This Sunday will prove my hunch right or not. If I’m right, the 49ers will be going to the Superbowl. If I'm wrong, at least the 49ers will have a new franchise QB for the foreseeable future.