I’m going to talk Kaepernick. But first let’s all take a deep breath. In and out. In and out.
Good? Alright. First, I would like to say hello to everyone here at Ninersnation, I have been lurking on the site (blog?) since I found out about it last season, and I have to say I really love the insight and analysis y’all do here. Y’all have created something special and it has become my number 1 source of information for all things Niners and something I religiously check between and during class.
Now, I wanted to quickly give my impression of the game last weekend. It sucked. Plain and simple. It was an especially disappointing result for me, given that I live and study in North Carolina, all my friends are Panthers fans, except for my N.C. State alumni roommate who hopped onto the Seahawks bandwagon when Russell Wilsonbecame their QB. Trust me, the Niner’s failings in week 10, and really any other time during the year, have been shouted at me no matter where I go.
But the (what is I hope is a vocal minority) need to settle down with this Colin hate.
Let me preface by saying that I was a proponent of Alex Smith for as long as he was with the team. I despised the benchings for the likes of Troy Smith and defended him to any other Niners fan that I met. However, I recognized Alex Smith’s ceiling, as I think many had after watching him play for so long. I appreciate the hell out of what he did and I still cannot watch the end of the 2011 Saints game without tearing up a bit. But still, I understood and accepted the move to Kaepernick last year.
One of my favorite moments in sports, ever. via cdn2.sbnation.com
And at the beginning it appeared my acceptance was vindicated. In the 7 games he started last year he had 1814 yards passing, 10 TD’s, 3 Ints. Not bad. His completion percentage was 62% (136/218) and his AY/A was 8.6. He ran for 415 yards and 5 TDs (and 9 fumbles). And finished the regular season with a QBR of 76.79 for the year. And that’s not even mentioning the playoffs, where the man lit it up. Now, true these stats are slightly inflated because they include the 2013 games he didn’t start, and would come in for a down or two to mix it up, but you get the picture.
This year he has certainly struggled more. In 9 games he has 1675 yards passing, 9 TD’s, 6 Ints. His completion percentage is 56.4% (124/220) and his AY/A is only 7.2. His running has also regressed, only 310 yards running with 3 TD’s (he has reduced his fumbles to 5 though). Making his QBR 64.8 for the year. Besides the statistical drop, he hasn’t exactly been passing the "eye test" either. Analysts have been noticing him "burping the baby" with the ball and looking more hesitant in the pocket this year overall; and I know Dilfer just questioned his progression reads. Some of that is mitigated by the fact that it is an outsider talking about a system they may not know, and Dilfer is mitigated somewhat because he was a terrible QB, but really, they all have valid points.
So why am I not worried?
Click to get the .gif to work via assets.sbnation.com
Now, I know y’all didn’t read all of this just to hear me spout the all-too-common refrain of "well Michael Crabtree is coming back, and he is going to solve everything!" I’m gonna say some of that, obviously. But mostly it’s that Colin just hasn't been that bad this year.
Has he had bad games? Absolutely. The Seahawks, Colts, and now Panthers games, were all "the worst game of his career." And for all you Niner’s faithful that have Kaepernick on your fantasy team (like your’s truly) I don’t really need to tell you he hasn't exactly been lighting up the scoreboards either. But that’s just one side of the coin. Despite all this, he’s still 9th overall in total QBR for the season and notably ahead of Russell Wilson, Cam Newton,Andy Dalton, and Alex Smith (21st) (plus Brady, RG III, and Eli Manning, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone).
During Weeks 1-10 he posted 5 Top 10 QBR games; 4 of which were Top 5 in the league; and 2 of those he was no. 1. He put up, according to ESPN, the 4th best game a QB has every played since they started counting the QBR metric, in week 8 against Jacksonville (best of the NFL in 2013 so far). In week 7, against a Titan’s D that has been tough against opposing QBs, he put up the 14th best game of all time, the 3rd best of this year. And don’t forget week 1, the game I hear frequently referred to as the last time Colin was any good, where he threw over 400 yards to torch a very good Packer’s team. So the potential is there, but the consistency isn’t yet. That will come with time (he’s what? 18ish games into his pro-career now?)
(And besides how many sometimes great, but inconsistent QBs have won Superbowls in the recent past? Eli twice? Flacco? Roethlisberger?)
And the best part? He is finally connecting with, in my opinion, our best receiving threat. Vernon Davis! I don’t have time to look up the stats right now, I’m doing this between classes and this has already gotten way out of hand lengthwise, but our entire offense just hums when VD is in there. A tight end that blocks like he does, and can take the top of the defenses? Yes please. Colin could not find him last year, preferring to throw the ball to Droppy McStonehands (though I loved having Delanie on the team, it was not for his receiving abilities). Now the two seem to have developed a pretty decent rapport. Noticeably we have lost every game that VD didn't play the full game (in fairness, he played a good bit of the Seahawks game and we would have probably lost it anyway).
Add Manningham to that, who is a good support-player who Colin seems to trust (and will continue to knock the rust off as the season goes); Q, who is an excellent, tough, no. 2 receiver; and soon Crabtree (assuming he comes back close to form, if not my optimism may dim a bit). And yeah, our passing attack has the potential to grow in a huge, huge way.
Besides that, we are still 6-3 and very much in this playoff race. Do you know how good that feels? I grew up in San Jose and have always been a 49ers fan, but I was only 8 when Young threw to T.O. against the Packers in the Wildcard game. During most of my fanhood the Niners have been god-awful. During the Singletary years, every preseason I would get so amped up on our potential, only to be reduced to pulling our my hair and cursing as I watched our games. Getting nervous over a bad game that put us to 6-3? Man, I’ll take that struggle any day in retrospect. Especially since, contrary to many doubters here the division is still within reach (need I remind you that the Seahakws almost lost, at home to the Buccaneers? And played just terrible games against the Titans, Rams, and Panthers? The Seahakws are not unbeatable, and them dropping two more games is not unlikely.)
Indeed, maybe that past is why we all have gotten so uppity about this perceived lack of QB play. We cut out our safety line in Smith this offseason and dove head first into the Kaepernick era. We have no decent backups to take the mantle if he can’t carry the team, no way back to shore. Are we maybe afraid of drowning out here? That the big, beautiful house of cards that Baalke and Harbaugh built will get knocked down in one fell swoop and bring us back to 2005? After all, QB is the most important position and if Kaep isn't who we thought he was the consequences are certainly dire. If so, I can understand that fear.
Never again via blog.sfgate.com
Does that mean we let it impact supporting our QB? No. Man, if there is one thing I can’t stand about our fan base, either this year or during our doldrum years, was the vitriol some have displayed to the QB position. We are hard on our QBs, whether they be Smith or Kaep, Garcia, or hell, even Young (so I’ve heard, the transition from Montana to Young was before my time).
We need to settle down because we are on a pretty great ride, one that I know is only going to get better. One thing we can say about Kaep, the man is a talent. He throws a football harder than anyone, and may be the fastest young QB out there despite being 6’4"-230. I mean, you saw the playoffs last year right? The two Green Bay games over the last two years? The Patriots game last year? The Falcons comeback? The almost miraculous turnaround in the Super Bowl last year? The man is a freak. Albeit, one that may still need molding, but when everything comes together . . . well we have all seen what he can do. The future is bright in San Francisco, so enough doom, the fog makes it gloomy enough.
Instead let's all direct our anxiety over the team and pettiness over a QB controversy that should not be to something more productive. Like towards some sort of direct beam of hatred, malaise, and ill-feeling aimed at Russell Wilson. Because like, I can’t stress to you how much I hate that guy. He terrorized my University when he was in college and just when I thought I was done with him forever, he goes to Seattle? Man just . . . I hope he steps on a Lego or something.
Note on the Stats: I used pro-football reference for most of the stuff here; ESPN for the week-to-week QBRs.