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Colin Kaepernick's new throwing mechanics following time with QB coach

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After 10 weeks with Dennis Gile, look for Colin Kaepernick to have subtle, but important changes to his throwing mechanics.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick’s 10-week QB camp with Trent Dilfer protegé Dennis Gile is now over. Dennis made the press rounds recently and made some very interesting comments about Kap’s development.

I think everyone’s going to be super surprised when they see him. I don’t really want to get into specifically like I said, exactly what we changed. But everyone’s going to see a totally different throwing motion from what they’ve seen out of Colin Kaepernick in the past.

What could Dennis Gile change that would make such a drastic impact in just 10 weeks? Knowing that requires understanding the system that Dennis Gile uses to help with quarterback mechanics. That system is TDFB.

TDFB is Trent Dilfer’s Football system (TDFB) for "holistic" quarterback coaching. I wrote a little about why Dilfer started developing TDFB earlier this year. While there are many components to the system, the part we’re concerned with is the strong focus on biomechanics.

TDFB asserts that human biomechanics are a critical factor in quarterbacking consistency.1 Unfortunately, many commonly-held beliefs about quarterback mechanics had players drilling the wrong things over and over. This is most evident with none other than the Tedford Five.

You remember Jeff Tedford, right?2 He is considered a quarterback coaching guru; a man capable of taking players and turning them into first-round draft picks with a rabid focus on mechanics. Tedford turned five quarterbacks (David Carr, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller, and Aaron Rodgers) into first round draft picks.3 Many of these QBs exhibited the Tedford-Tell: holding the ball up near your ear, right elbow up, with the ball "on the shelf."

Take a look at one of Aaron Rodgers throws during a Cal - USC game in 2004 and skip ahead to the 1:53 mark.

Notice how high and tight Rodgers holds the ball. His base is relatively narrow until it comes time to throw the ball. Peyton "I’m on my tip toes" Manning is another quarterback who had a very narrow base coming out of college. The idea is that if the ball is on the shelf and your posture is ramrod straight then there is no wasted motion when you throw the ball.

Look at Aaron Rodgers’ throwing motion now.

Rodgers is pretty much a prototype for the mechanics TDFB says are best for throwing consistent, accurate, and strong passes. First look to where Rodgers is holding the ball. Both Rodgers’ elbows are pointing down and his arms looks relaxed. Rogers carries the ball close to his chest, basically at the numbers.

Here’s where the TDFB focus on biomechanics really shines. Based on Dilfer’s study, he noticed that when a QB’s elbows are down it relaxes his trapezius muscles, forearms, and grip. Putting the ball up on the shelf locks up the trap, decreases functional speed, and makes it more difficult to spin the ball naturally.

Then there’s the base. In Dilfer’s study the one consistent thread that tied all great quarterbacks is balance. When you have a lot of bodies falling around you while trying to grab you and pull you down, staying on your feet is paramount. A wider base, which you achieve by sinking your hips a little, allows quarterbacks to stay balanced. And balanced quarterbacks throw accurate passes more consistently. Dilfer says you want to play strong in the pocket, not tall in the pocket.

So what exactly did Dennis Gile mean when he said we should look for a "totally different" throwing motion? From what we know so far look for a change in Kap's base,

Gile specifically mentions that Kap had a narrow base, making it difficult to stay balanced and reset his feet as he moved through his progression. Bill Walsh used to say that your feet moved your eyes, but if your feet are tied together in a circle the size of a fruit loop having your feet move your eyes is difficult.

Luckily, Gile didn’t have to correct the way Kaepernick holds the ball. Kap doesn’t have that "high and tight" problem, as you can see below. While it’s just a warm up throw, he doesn’t hold the ball much differently during the game. It looks more like Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers than it does Cal Aaron Rodgers.

And while this isn’t much, it’s the only video I know of that shows Kap throwing this offseason after several weeks of mechanical fine tuning in the TDFB system.

You can already see the hallmarks of TDFB: The wider base, the sunken hips, the smooth shoulder movement, and the downward-pointing elbows.

Who knows if this will all stick. After all, we've seen instances of people trying to "fix" quarterbacks all the time, only to see the Tebows of the world regress as soon as the pressure was on. After all, you're asking someone to change how they've done something for almost a decade in just 10 weeks. But if Kaepernick can take what he learned during these 10 weeks and make the movements rote, and by all accounts he's fully capable of doing so, then I would expect him to be a slightly more accurate and effective quarterback from the pocket in 2015.


  1. Note that the TDFB system doesn’t assert that mechanics alone make you a great quarterback, but it’s definitely one part of it.

  2. Ironically, Tedford coached Trent Dilfer when they were at Fresno State.

  3. Which one of these is not like the others?