A couple of days ago, Kurt Warner gave an excellent interview. We posted a transcript here - and that spawned a really interesting discussion about all things Colin Kaepernick in the comments, including his mental aptitude to handle a complex offense. I thought it might be nice to hone in a bit more on a few remarks that Warner made - remarks that are maybe a tad unrealistic about what sort of offense Kaepernick should be in this season, but I think are actually quite reassuring.
Warner argues that the San Francisco 49ers new coaching staff should not tailor their offense to Kaepernick's skill set, most especially with respect to his running abilities. Warner's a fairly loquacious speaker, so I can't quote everything he had to say (check out the transcript for that), but here are some of the most relevant bits:
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.
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.
The idea that NFL teams don't tailor their offenses and defenses to suit the skillsets of their players is ludicrous. Of course the 49ers are going to keep Kaepernick in mind when they create the offense. To suggest otherwise is, well, silly.
And, I would be a lot of money that Warner knows this; additionally, I imagine that he is overstating his position on this. Heck, he brings up Russell Wilson as a point of comparison - Wilson, who plays on an offense that is essentially tailored made for him and Marshawn Lynch. That's how the NFL works.
But, Warner's not an idiot. Not at all. Moreover, as fans, we should be exceptionally happy that this is what Warner is saying. At this point in his career, Kaepernick has had years and years of experience that tells him to run when the pocket starts to collapse. He has played out of the shotgun for years, frequently in the pistol formation. He has relied on his athleticism and physical gifts to win games and to run an offense. This is why I think he could be great. But, to get there, he's going to need to learn how to package all of that into a successful QB mold. The fact of the matter is that NFL games are won with good footwork and smart reads. Pocket presence is another important trait, and so too is accuracy.
I want Kaepernick to continue torching teams with his legs. When he gets into open space, he can be electric. It's really quite impressive. But, that's not always going to be an option, and teams have shown that they can defend it (sometimes). I also want Kaepernick to be a virtuoso in the pocket, and a guy like Warner (and others) can hopefully give Kaepernick the knowledge and repetitions he needs to build on what he does well and to develop skills in areas that he doesn't.
So, when Warner says that the 49ers shouldn't be designing an offense around Kaepernick's running skills, we should rejoice because that means that Warner is - and has this summer - attempted to reinforce the parts of the game that could take Kaepernick to the next level. I don't think it's Kaepernick's ability to comprehend an offense that's the problem; I think it's his athletic instincts. Let's hope he hardwired them a bit differently this summer with Warner's help. By focusing only on certain aspects of Kaepernick's game (i.e. the conventional passing aspects) and not others (the running aspects), he might have just done that.