The San Francisco 49ers offense has shown signs of life in recent weeks, and this past week we saw Colin Kaepernick put up numbers that reminded us of 2012 and 2013. And the numbers have already been an improvement over an ugly first half of the 2015 season.
The big question has been what exactly to compare to in considering improvement for Colin Kaepernick. Eric Branch offered up this statistical comparison for his first two games and his last four games.
Colin Kaepernick’s first two starts: 46.0 completion pct., 66.2 rating— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) November 28, 2016
Last four starts: 59.3 completion pct., 96.0 rating#49ers
Kaepernick has done some good things against a mix of good and bad defenses. He has had some good stretches, and there have been times where he has piled up numbers after facing huge deficits.
And one could argue we are simply back in the same cycle we have always been in when discussing Colin Kaepernick. I heard a fantastic analogy during Greg Cosell’s recent interview on KNBR. Brian Murphy made a great comment that I felt summed things up best.
Murphy: I feel like when we talk about Kaepernick, and he could have a great game or a lousy game, I feel like we go into a maze, you know those mazes you can walk through, like in The Shining? I feel like every time, we go down these mazes and we take these turns, we just come out at the start of the maze every week.
Cosell: And every week, it’s heeeeeere’s Colin.
Murphy: Sometimes you just want to pick up the axe and chop down the door. But I do feel like we go through these mazes and we wind up in the same place, which is, “well, I don’t know.”
In some ways it does feel like we go through the maze, and end up at the same spot eventually. We keep trying to figure out our answer, and that might be actually providing the answer. Cosell provided some thoughts on if Kaepernick is improved or still the same rudimentary quarterback, and he suggested the 49ers cannot, “go into next season with Colin Kaepernick as your clear starter, and say, he’s our guy, we’re ready to go.” He did say there are still five games to see what else happens, but if it is similar to what we have seen thus far, that is his assessment.
Here’s the transcript of the Kaepernick segment to start the show.
On if Kap still looks improved or still rudimentary:
Well, I still believe that, I don’t think you can go into next season with Colin Kaepernick as your clear starter, and say, he’s our guy, we’re ready to go. Now again, there’s five more games to play, and I’ve been very realistic and objective in evaluating him. Just because, you had to give him a chance to work through this offense. I think Chip has done a really good job overall with defining throws for him, the initial read, so the ball can come out. He still obviously has a long way to go when that initial read is not there. That’s not a strength of his game. He’s not a progression reader. It’s a quick timing offense.
And then you have to decide, or they have to decide, people have to decide how they feel about the rushing yardage. This is an offense, and Chip spent a lot of time in Philadelphia saying his quarterback doesn’t have to be a runner, but that offense almost demands that the quarterback be a significant running threat. So how much can a quarterback run in the National Football League, both by design and improvisationally? That’s a question that most people, I think, come down on the side of he can’t do it too much.
On big game and if that’s no way to survive week-to-week:
I would say that more than likely, history in the NFL suggests you can’t survive that way and live in that world on a weekly basis. He has certain things he can do, and I think Chip has accentuated that with the style of offense. If you just put the offense in a vacuum, as an absolute, I think that he can function in that offense. He’s not a late in the down pocket quarterback. The longer he’s in the pocket, the less effective he is, the less he sees. He has very poor footwork and balance. Those are things that need to be worked on. Can you camouflage those things and compensate for those things? You can, up to a certain point. He’s still a work in progress and he has a certain skill set that at times shows spectacularly and gets people excited.
On if there’s real progress being made:
I think that what he does is being accentuated in Chip’s offense. So the question is how far can that go? And that’s a hard question to answer. Numbers also are numbers. You have to be careful. Look, they were down 31-14, and the game became almost a desperation race to the finish kind of game, in which quarterbacks put up numbers — look, the same thing happened last week with Matt Barkley. They were down 27-7 in the fourth quarter, and it became a throw ball game, and to give Matt Barkley all the credit in the world, was a comfortable player making throws, but then you have to decide, if he threw for 350 yards last week, why can’t he do that every week. i think you have to be careful about extrapolating those kind of late game situations as if that’s the normal.
On importance of completion percentage:
That’s an important one in the context of this offense because this is not a tough throw offense. This is not, let’s stick deep digs, or let’s stick vertical routes down the field. That’s one of the issues you face with Kaepernick is that he’s not a precise ball placement thrower in the short, intermediate passing game, which is the foundation of the Chip Kelly offense. So, that’s a concern as you go forward.
Kaepernick is in many ways, a highlight quarterback because the runs get you excited. So ultimately you have to decide, where you come down on that balance sheet. How important are the runs in the context of being a consistent week-to-week quarterback who can make throws when needed.
I feel like when we talk about Kaepernick, and he could have a great game or a lousy game, I feel like we go into a maze, you know those mazes you can walk through, like in The Shining? I feel like every time, we go down these mazes and we take these turns, we just come out at the start of the maze every week.
And every week, it’s heeeeeere’s Colin.
Sometimes you just want to pick up the axe and chop down the door. But I do feel like we go through these mazes and we wind up in the same place, which is, “well, I don’t know.”
On the numerous losses:
And that’s hard to put, if we’re being fair and realistic, it’s hard to put solely on Colin Kaepernick. What you’re trying to figure out is, look, obviously they’re not in the playoffs this year, they’ve lost ten in a row, we don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the season. Let’s assume it’s the same coaching staff next year. So what you’re ultimately asking is, is Colin Kaepernick the quarterback for this coaching staff. Because, Chip does things a little differently than some in the league. So, is he the quarterback that you can feel good about going forward. That may turn out to be true, but let’s see how the last five games play out, and if it’s more or less similar, even though he’s been incrementally better, if it’s more or less similar to the last two, three weeks, I don’t think you can say, “he’s my quarterback.”