Criticizing Kaepernick and the National Media

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I respond to an article by Robert Klemko about Colin Kaepernick's footwork.

Over at SI.com's MMQB, Robert Klemko has posted an article that argues that Colin Kaepernick's biggest strength (his legs) is really a weakness. For Klemko, Colin's strength is readily apparent: he can dash about the field effectively, blowing past defenders with each stride. But, his major weakness is his inconsistent footwork. Colin is a run-first QB because he is less effective as a pocket passer. As Klemko puts it, "we tend not to scrutinize so closely because Kaepernick is able to compensate with his legs."

I tend to be forgiving of the media. I've been writing publicly about the 49ers for a while now, and I still find it difficult. Writing an article and disseminating it to the Internet is difficult. A lot of smart people read what I write; some of them are naturally going to find weaknesses. It can be nerve-wracking. Thus, I try to be prudent and judicious in my judgements of other authors.

But, I think Klemko's piece warrants a response because, while his central thesis is likely correct (I do think Kaepernick is too inconsistent with his footwork), he writes toward his conclusion in such a way that exemplifies some of the habits I dislike in sports writing, particularly from national writers. Beat writers are usually better in these regards.

First, writers have the tendency to hyperbolize when working towards a specific narrative. Here's how Klemko opens his article: "How long can you teeter on the edge of a cliff before falling off? How much longer can Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers keep on living dangerously?"

Really? "Living dangerously?" The 49ers have hardily been on the "edge of a cliff." While the 49ers have had problems this season, this is still a dangerous team with a well-rounded offense, defense, and special teams. Moreover, Kaepernick's footwork likely will not be the difference between success and failure. Of course, it could be. But, it's rare that everybody else on the team is perfect and Kaepernick is not.

Secondly, writers can occasionally work without all the necessary information. While I don't expect Klemko to have seen every 49ers game this season, I hardly find the assertion that "Kaepernick is able to compensate with his legs" credible. Compensate for what? His lack of throwing ability? While he's not been perfect as a passer, particularly in respect to his accuracy and completion percentage, and while his footwork can be inconsistent, he is still an above average QB by most any passing statistic. Let's examine his ANY/A+, which tells us his average net yards per attempt - a statistic that is considered one of the more predictive stats for QBs. This year, he has a 110 ANY/A+; 100 is league average; and, last year he had an ANY/A+ of 121. So yeah, he's still performing well as a passer.

In addition, he is running less often. There's no compensating there, just complementing. He complements his passing with effective running.

So, is Kap's footwork inconsistent? Absolutely. But, he's young, getting better, brimming with potential, hard-working, smart, and under the tutelage of a great QB coach. In no way does this constitute a fatal flaw, and I doubt that it will lose the 49ers many games. So far, Kap has been pretty good at helping the team win.

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