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49ers vs. Packers: Steve Young Talks Colin Kaepernick, 2013 NFL playoffs

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We take a look at a conference call from Wednesday where none other than Steve Young shares his thoughts on the weekend's Divisional Round match-ups.


Steve Young had a conference call with ESPN earlier in the week and provided us with some interesting thoughts. Feel free to check out the whole thing; but we'll provide some quotes and thoughts of our own, below.

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Q. The speed of the game for a guy like Colin Kaepernick in the playoffs, how do you think he will face that and deal with that and how do you think after watching him, he will be prepared for this Packers defense?

YOUNG: He gets a lot of help, and I think that's the pact that Jim Harbaugh made when he made the controversial switch, because his defense was so good and his offensive line was so good and his runners were so good, and his philosophy was not that demanding compared to other teams that they could protect him enough from having to do the difficult things that just are difficult.

Even Andrew Luck, with the amazing season he had, turned the ball over a bunch, threw it into peoples' chests some. It's just the nature of the difficulty and that's going to be obviously the degree of difficult in the playoffs.

I think that the calculus for this game and the playoffs for Colin is they cannot put him in a situation where he's deep in a hole and he's got to throw his way out of it. They are going to try to prevent that. They are going to try to make sure that they do what they have done before: turn the ball over a bunch in New Orleans, turn the ball over a bunch in New England, because you saw when they didn't turn the ball over a bunch, the defense - and get the ball back to Colin and that they had to come back in Seattle - that's not the scenario he wants obviously.

I think if Colin is forced to see the full measure of all of the defenses and coverages that Green Bay has in the arsenal it is going to be tough on him. I think the idea is that he's going to be protected from that and Jim is probably hoping that he sees full‑field reads, reads where he has to take all that in and deal with that maybe five times in a game. That would be optimal, right, where you just don't get in those situations too often.

I think that's how he always thought this would go, and now his dream is that doesn't break down and then he has Colin take 25, 30, 40 snaps of pure, unadulterated read the defense, figure out where everybody is, safeties are raining down and now it's on you.

This bit was the most intriguing. Colin Kaepernick may have improved our deep shots and he may be able to make more happen with his legs - including both moving outside of the pocket and throwing on the run, as well as the read option - but at the end of the day he is still a second year guy who is going to struggle with some things.

The risk of Harbaugh's switch is reduced heavily by the fact that our defense and running game are among the best in the league and can keep us in any (most) games.

Against New England, New Orleans, and Chicago - games where the Niners put up a lot of points - our offense benefited, also, from a number of takeaways and/or otherwise stellar defensive performances. The outcome in those games was never particularly in peril.

Young seems to believe "peril" is not something we want our young gun to be facing so soon - especially not in the playoffs against the most legit teams in the NFL. Tomorrow, we face one of those teams, with the best quarterback in the league, Aaron Rodgers.

Perhaps next year Kaepernick will be ready for "unadulterated read the defense"? But Young believes we need to keep playing the team football that got us to the dance if we want a 6th Lombardi. That part I could agree with.

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Q. Jim Harbaugh, very popular here in the Bay Area, because he's won so quickly, even the controversial decision to bench Alex in favor of Colin has worked out so far, but seems like it might be a whole different thing come playoff time. Given the playoff success of last year for the 49ers and the fact that he changed quarterbacks in November, how much pressure is there on Jim this playoff season?

YOUNG: Jim went all‑in, you know, but that's Jim. That's his nature. So when Colin played well at Chicago, his reaction was, ‘I've been looking for this'. I think he was looking for this and found the opening and went to full speed. I don't think he looked back. And people questioned him or talked to him, even internally, I would assume this would go to the owner and this would go all the way to the top. I'm sure he just said, ‘this is where I'm going'. So he's all‑in with it.

I think that the pressure is, absolutely on there, but he's got a lot of built‑up goodwill in the bank with everyone in San Francisco because of what you mentioned in the record. Now, losing playoff games, ask Lovie Smith, you can win a bunch of games, but you'd better win in January.

So this move that happened a couple months ago, if it blows up on Saturday in a way that kind of did when he got beat in St. Louis or something else where it just fumbled around and looked like a second‑year player, the gamble that Jim's made is that I can protect Colin enough that I can actually make him look like a five‑year player and he won't devolve and look like a rookie with the defense handing the ball back to him, running game, play-action, cut the field in half, doing some things that make it a little bit easier.

But certainly, if it all blows up on Saturday, that will take a lot of that goodwill out of the bank. Now, that doesn't change much and you're still going to be around with a great coach, but it's a high‑risk situation and where that high‑risk is, there's high reward and obviously things that could be lost.

So far, everyone is kind of all‑in with him. But you know, there's obviously a lot of pressure in that situation right now.

Harbaugh definitely went "all-in" with the move, but those are the tough decisions we pay and trust a head coach to make in order to get to where everyone wants to be: the Super Bowl.

If the move blows up in his face in a ridiculous way on Saturday, or even in the NFC Championship game/Super Bowl, then there will be a lot of backlash among the fan-base and a lot of questioning going forward - even if most of that is unfair. Such is the nature of the business.

But the other nature of the business is that risks have to be taken if you want to be great. And Jim Harbaugh is a man with his eye on greatness.

Ideally, Kaepernick, Gore, and our defense, lead us to another Lombardi this February; and then everyone can be at peace with the whole thing. Alex can go to Kansas City, because Niner lore demands it, and San Francisco can move on, 100% behind The Kid.

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Q. Just wondering if you could comment about Colin Kaepernick, generally about his upside, the dimension he brings, the arm and the mobility.

YOUNG: A rhetorical question, you hit it all right there. But I think the thing that surprised me and it came out right away when he replaced Alex against Chicago was the accuracy and the ability to make a lot of different throws. There's a lot of throws that if you are going to make them really precisely, it really is this kind of a special ability and a risk to be able to still forcefully throw a ball with a touch that comes out the last second as you release the football. There's a lot of arm‑throwers out there that the ball starts in motion and the arm is moving and it's going where it's going, and it's going to go at the trajectory it's going. There's not a lot of intricate adjustments that the guy can make.

So to me, the great throwers are the ones that can make the intricate adjustments and make a lot of different throws. And so that was great to see. That tells you that the upside for Colin is large, because now you know that not everybody has to be open all the time and he can pull the string when he needs to and he can place the ball where he needs to, and that's a big deal, and probably the biggest deal of all the aspects you just mentioned. Because certainly having the ability to run around and move always served me well.

People have all kinds of arguments with the guys playing today. If you have learned the position, which is to deliver the ball from the pocket, if you've mastered it, you're on your way, or close to it; moving around, being able to move around, just a huge advantage, just the bottom line: fact. So that's always a positive, as long as you're making the transition to the job, which is to deliver the ball from the pocket.

Colin, certainly think about it, almost no playing time under the pressure that Jim put him in. Hey, look, you have this other guy that's playing kind of at an All‑Pro level, and people have developed a real appreciation for because of the things he's been through and what he's done for the team. You're now in it. You're in the middle of that. Go win. Go make it look great. And you've got to give Colin a tremendous amount of credit for the moxy to kind of be so far pulling it off and that's a tough spot. Certainly legs, certainly size, but the delivery and the moxy to stand in and do what is not easy to do, I've got to give him a lot of credit.

Things like this are nice to hear coming from a Hall of Fame quarterback like Steve Young.

He mentions the upside with Colin, as we have all noticed; but he mentions, more explicitly, not the throws he can make, but the throws he has already made.

As The Kid progresses further with his understanding of NFL defenses, and with Jim Harbaugh's offense, and if we do not occasionally falter with terrible play-calling, then it's hard not to have faith that the sky is really the limit here.

We could be looking at a future Hall of Famer of our own in Colin Kaepernick.

It all begins this Saturday.

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Steve Young also gives us some thoughts on Rodgers, Tom Brady, the Falcons, and other topics, so check out the whole interview. Young is very eloquent and quite the intelligent guy, and it's always a pleasure to hear him speak.

As for my thoughts on some of the other topics he touches; I in particular want to say that the Falcons will likely get embarrassed again this Sunday when they play Seattle. I don't see that going well for them at all. They had better bring a fire that we have not seen from them before if they want to beat a red-hot Seahawks squad; but I simply don't see it happening.

Sadly, it looks like Seattle is heading to the NFC Championship Game. The main question is, will San Francisco join them and exact some sweet revenge?

Please yes.