clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How Colin Kaepernick Measures Up To Other Elite Quarterbacks

Niners Nation took a quick look at how Kaepernick measures up against some of the best current/retired quarterbacks in the NFL.

Does his cocked hat have an effect on his stats?
Does his cocked hat have an effect on his stats?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like just yesterday when the 49ers were playing against the St. Louis Rams and Alex Smith had to leave the game due to a concussion. A young, unproven quarterback took over as the starter and hasn’t looked back. Much has been made of whether he was the right choice, whether the decision was merited, and what should the fans expect from Colin Kaepernick.

As with the Joe Montana/Steve Young quarterback controversy in the late 1980’s, people were going to take sides and have their opinions. Some people wanted to stay with Alex Smith saying he had done nothing to lose his position and others wanted to go in a new direction and see what Kaepernick might offer. The 7-1 Chicago Bears came to San Francisco and the Kaepernick-led 49ers manhandled the Bears, 32-7. Kaepernick never looked back, going 5-2 in the regular season and solidifying himself as the starter for the 49ers going forward.

Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl after starting those seven games in the 2012 regular season and shaking off some offensive issues early in the NFC Divisional Game and the NFC Championship Game. In 2013, Kaepernick was able to bring the 49ers back to the NFC Championship Game after leading the team to a 12-4 record. All of those wins and two fantastic showings in the NFL Playoffs put players in a position where they can be seen as polarizing figures. Some fans hate these players. Some fans love them. Some respect what the player does. Others look for reason to discredit said players accomplishments.

The easiest way to compare players is by their statistics. This is not a flawless comparison because it does not take into consideration schemes, personnel, or era, but this should serve as a fair barometer to compare these 11 quarterbacks.  Listed below are five retired quarterbacks who are widely regarded as some of the best in their generation (a subjective view point, no doubt), five current quarterbacks who are held in equal regard, and Mr. Colin Kaepernick.

The goal of this is to see how Kaepernick measures up against some of the best players at his position. Kaepernick has started 29 games including the playoffs.  To draw a fair comparison, the following stats are just for the players first 29 starts, including the playoffs, but only begin once the player became the starter for their team. For example, Joe Montana started a couple of games in 1980, but didn’t become the full-time starter until the 13th game that year, therefore, his stats start from that point. The touchdown stats include passing and rushing touchdowns, not just passing touchdowns. The stats used in the graph below was found at These are obviously not the be-all, end-all stats of the discussion, but they're one way to compare Kaepernick to some current and all-time greats.

The retired players list includes Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, and Troy Aikman. These quarterbacks had different skill sets, players, coaches, and ability levels. The current players list includes Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson. Again, these skill sets are unique to the individual and they rely on different coaches, schemes, and players to accumulate their stats.

Quarterback TD/INT Passing Yards Rushing Yards Total Yards QB Rating
Colin Kaepernick 52/19 6179 1269 7448 93
Joe Montana 53/28 7075 185 7260 92.9
John Elway 31/33 4674 422 5096 66.7
Dan Marino 77/29 8488 38 8526 103.9
Brett Favre 36/36 6168 414 6582 80.5
Troy Aikman 26/39 4956 483 5439 65.9
Tom Brady 47/26 6912 158 7070 83.5
Peyton Manning 50/42 7137 119 7256 82.6
Aaron Rodgers 60/20 7617 490 8107 98.9
Russell Wilson 54/17 6052 1052 7077 101.6
Drew Brees 32/33 5747 212 5959 76.9

All of the quarterbacks listed are relatively similar from a statistical comparison. As with any statistical analysis, there are some outliers, but generally speaking, everyone is within striking distance. In no way is this article to suggest that Kaepernick will or will not surpass his fellow graphmates…it was more an illustration that his statistical output is either at or above what should be expected of a top talent in the NFL.

Take this article for what it’s worth: If you’re a Niners fan, look forward to many years with Kaepernick under center. If you’re not a 49ers fan, comment on how biased these numbers are, how Kaepernick isn’t worth anything, and how he won’t last…maybe that delusion will keep you company while he’s racking up stats and W’s against your teams.