Former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner has been in the news this offseason for his work with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Naturally this has resulted in multiple interviews. I went back through the NN archives, and came across Warner interviews in January, March (part 1, part 2), and
April. Now we're back with a detailed discussion with Warner. He talked about some of the things they worked on, but discussed more about looking ahead and what he might look for during the season. I'm guessing the Russell Wilson comment in the last answer will amuse some folks.
On what to expect from Kap in 2015:
I tell you what, I enjoyed working with Colin. It was really just a short period of time, maybe six weeks when he was out here in Arizona before their offseason stuff got started. But I tell you what, love him as a kid, he's a hard worker, he wants to be great. And I think that's where it all starts. The question really becomes, he's played the position a certain way his entire life, and a lot of that is based on his physical skill and athleticism. So when we were out here working, we were just trying to get him more comfortable in a throwing position. And more comfortable in the pocket so that he can stay there a little bit longer, and really just make what we call layups at the quarterback position.
I believe that it's hard to be successful playing quarterback if you're trying to create a play outside the box all the time. You have to be able to make those layups, those easy throws and easy reads, and comfortable getting one to two, and it's oftentimes to three, before you take off. And that's really what we were trying to do was just get him more comfortable in that kind of position. For me, that's where I was comfortable throwing. When I got out of a throwing position, I got uncomfortable. He's exactly the opposite, where when he's outside of a throwing position, and on the run and moving, man, that's where he feels at home. You know, being constricted and inside that pocket, and patient inside the pocket is where he's most uncomfortable.
So we were just trying to spend time making that more normal and more comfortable for him. So the real question becomes, how far can you go in a short period of time to get comfortable with that. There's no question he's going to put in the work and the time, because he wants to be. But I told him, the hardest part is that I can't ever teach how long to be a quarterback an then when to let the athlete take over. That wasn't me, that's not how I played the game.
And that's what I told him. That's the hardest part for you, is to try and figure out that balance. So how long do I need to be a quarterback to be successful, and to make those layups, and to make the game easier on me. And then at what point do I turn into an athlete and become that special player that he can be outside the framework of a play. But that's one of those hard things for those really athletic guys, is to try and find that balance and be really good at both.
On if he saw improved touch:
I did. And one of the biggest things, and I know it's a misnomer, when a lot of people talk about throwing the ball, and they always talk about the arm. When you want to change velocity and be able to change and throw with touch, and different trajectories, the biggest part of throwing becomes your legs. Your power comes with your legs, so I can still throw a 20-yard dig, but I don't have to throw it 100 mph. When you're throwing with your arm and you gotta throw a 20-yard dig, there's only one way to throw it, and that's hard.
And so the biggest thing again was staying in a comfortable throwing position, meaning legs bent, lower body engaged, so we get our power and torque from that, and now we can change the arm and we can slow it down, and we can change the trajectory. So now, we can throw with plenty of velocity to get the ball there, but we can also throw with touch so we make it easier on our receivers. Or, we have the ability to throw over the top of a linebacker, as opposed to having to throw through him.
And so those are the things we worked on. And the ironic thing is I throw a fundraiser every year called "The Ultimate Football Experience", where I bring kind of corporate business guys out to play flag football. And I bring in NFL players and NFL quarterbacks to be their quarterback. And I asked Colin to come over and play in my tournament, and one of the reasons was, obviously he was great for the guys and the experience and it's a fun day. But it was a great way for him to have to utilize throwing with touch. Because you can't throw it 100 mph to the guy who just pulled off his tie and is stepping out onto the field. You have to learn to throw with touch, and you have to throw over guys. And that was one of the things I yelled at him a couple times, "Man, was that a little bit of touch I saw?!"
And so, it was little things like that of engaging that lower body so we could make it easier to make different throws, and also make it easy on our receivers. Because what I always tell quarterbacks is, it's tough to play that position perfect. And so, if you're throwing the ball 100 miles per hour, you can't miss by more than a foot or two, or it's incomplete. If you throw with touch and can lay the ball out there and allow these great receivers to adjust, slow down, to jump up and get the ball, to adjust their route a little bit. It gives the ability to complete passes, and it makes the position so much easier.
So it was definitely something that we tried to work on, but again, the biggest part is we only had a short period of time to kind of lay out the ground rules, and the drills to use. And he got better and he improved when we were doing it out here. But the real question is when he takes it back, and he's in the live situation, and guys are coming after him, and he has to think a little bit faster, and a little bit more. Can those things become natural, so he can engage some of those different things with the touch, and being more comfortable in those positions as he gets onto the field.
On what would be successful for Kap this year:
You know, I don't know if there is a real gauge, especially in this day and age. Before, kind of a premium when you talked about stats, was 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns, was like a premium. Now, those things are kind of ho hum, we kind of yawn, oh he only threw for 4,500 yards? So, everything's changing. I think every quarterback, just like a running back, you know when you've played a good game. Now it might not say that on the stat book, or you might not have a high quarterback rating that game, but you know when you've made the right decisions. When you've made the throws that were there to be made. And sometimes a good game is throwing the ball away.
So I think for Colin, for me how I would gauge it is, when I go back and watch the film like I'll do for our Sunday show, and I watch him, I'm going to be able to say, he made the throws that were there to be made. I believe NFL quarterbacks have to make the throws that are easy and are there to be made. And then the great ones are the ones that have the ability to extend the play, or have the ability to make a throw that everybody else can't make. But you have to make the throws that are there to be made, and I think that's going to be the progression that I want to see from Colin. He's gonna make some special plays, with his arm, with his legs. He's going to do some things that nobody else can do. Can he make those every-day plays, and make them more consistently than he did last year. I don't know what the numbers will look like, because he's so different and dynamic. I don't know if you look at rushing touchdowns and passing touchdowns, or number of yards. I think it's more, how efficient can he be? Can he complete those easy throws a higher percentage of the time than he has in the past? And that to me is where you'll see growth and say that's a successful season.
On whether offensive should be catered to his ability to run the football:
I don't think so. I think the bottom line with what we've seen of the read option or zone reads or whatever, teams are understanding, when you're investing $100 million in a guy, you don't want him tucking the ball and running it, you don't want to make that the design of your offense. Because one or two hits changes everything.
And especially longevity. I mean, Lo was just talking about the longevity of running backs and how we say that's so much shorter than other positions because they take so many hits. You don't want a quarterback to step into that same mold, especially when we're talking about $100 million contracts. So I think the bottom line when you watch teams that are successful, and teams that go to championships, those teams are primarily based off of guys that can play the position inside the pocket. And then guys that can do different things, like a Russell Wilson, and extend a play. But I think it really just needs to become a balance of the two, but more importantly, let's design a pass offense that Colin feels comfortable with. And then, he can make those every day plays. And then when that's not there, or he's not comfortable with it, now we'll let him create, and let him do it five, six, seven, ten times a game. As opposed to running an offense where that could happen 20, 25 times a game.
Now, it's harder to survive, it's harder to be successful in this environment. I think the real key is for him to have to grow more as a passing, pocket quarterback, to complement all the other things that he does so well. And I think that's what's going to make him great, very much like a Russell Wilson type, who seemed to find that balance a little better than most guys that we would term as an "athletic quarterback."
On Kap dealing with coaching change:
I think they're going to try and keep a lot of the offense intact, so I think that's going to be a good thing. Terminology's going to be the same, I think they're going to scale back a little bit from, it sounded like they were putting a lot on Colin as far as changing plays, or having three and four options at the line of scrimmage. I think they're going to pull that back a little bit, so that he can just play faster.
And I think that's the first thing you have to do with a quarterback that's still growing. Pull back, and allow him to see things within a play. Have a certain play and think, hey maybe the X receiver's my number one read vs. this coverage. Now the Z receiver becomes my number one read vs. this coverage. Allowing him to expand his knowledge of different plays, and not having to always try and get into the perfect play. Because I think that's hard for any quarterback. I mean Peyton Manning's about the only guy I think's perfected that. The rest of us, it's so hard to call and move our team into the perfect play.
So, simplify it a little bit from that standpoint, where there's not so many options, of plays to call on every particular down. And now it's more just going out and executing the plays. But I think that they're staying in the same offense, same terminology will just help him to expand. And I think the hard work he's put in, everything points in the direction that he's going to make growth this year. But, I also think he's going to have to do a bit more this year than in the past because of all the changes they have defensively, and some of the key players they lost. There's going to be a little bit more pressure on him to perform, especially in the NFC West that's so tough and has such good defenses.