The San Francisco 49ers entered the 2016 season unsure of their quarterback position. Colin Kaepernick was still getting back to 100 percent from his various surgeries, and Blaine Gabbert was starting after some meh performances in 2015. When the season ends, it is safe to say the team will still be entirely unsure of their quarterback situation.
Gabbert was benched after five games, and Kaepernick took over. In eight starts since then, Kaepernick has shown some moments that remind us of 2012 and 2013, but he has also shown plenty of moments that show us the worst of 2014 and 2015. He got few chances against the Chicago Bears, and then could get nothing going with any consistency against an awful New York Jets defense.
NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell did some double duty breaking down Kaepernick’s performance. He discussed it on KNBR on Tuesday (audio), and then offered some specific film breakdown at Yahoo! this morning.
Throughout the season, Cosell has had plenty to discuss with regard to Kaepernick, and he has not had full-throated support for him. He sees good things, but there is enough bad things that he cannot point to any clear progress. On Tuesday, he cut to the point, saying that he regularly sees, “there are three or four plays that are just so representative of why he’s just not an NFL quarterback that you can look ahead and say, he’s part of the solution as we go ahead to next year.”
I don’t think this will shock many people. There are still people who think he can be the answer, but for the most part, it is safe to say people are moving on, or at least ready to move on from Kaepernick in San Francisco. He has an option for 2017 he can pick up, and if Trent Baalke is fired, Kaepernick might be inclined to return to Chip Kelly. However, there is no guaranteed money on the 2017 option year, so if the 49ers want to move on, they could simply choose to release him with only $2,465,753 in dead money.
Here is the full transcript of Cosell’s comments specific to Kaepernick and the offense.
On offensive struggles:
I think yesterday, particularly in the first half, there were a lot of long runs. And I think you have to be careful about those kinds of plays. First of all, they did a really good job in the run game. They had two types of runs, basically. What we call split zone, where they had McDonald cross the formation to block the back-side defender. That’s not read option, that’s what we call split zone, because there is a blocker for that back-side defender.
And then they did run read option, where there is not a blocker for the back-side defender, and that’s truly read option. And they had great success with that. In fact, a number of times Hyde was able to bounce outside, the Jets actually did not do a very good job at all of setting the edge, because there were way too many runs in which Hyde was able to bounce outside. But hey, if you’re the Niners, you’re pretty excited about that.
But when all’s said and done, I think a lot of the same issues arise with the pass game. There were a couple throws by Kaepernick in the first half that were basically one-read throws. And they were immediately defined, and he made them. Obviously the 30-yarder to Bell on the third possession. He hit Kerley for 27 yards on the fourth possession. These are basically one read type throws, or throws that present themselves immediately. And you’ll see a few of those every game. When those don’t happen … there are three or four plays that are just so representative of why he’s just not an NFL quarterback that you can look ahead and say, he’s part of the solution as we go ahead to next year.
On strong first halves and poor second halves:
Well, again, I can speak to what he does because there are plays, specific plays where he just, he breaks down, or he throws the ball too hard, a little bit inaccurately. He’s ultimately not a touch, pace, and precise ball location quarterback. I mean you can look at any numbers of plays. There was a play late in the first half, I believe there were 24 seconds remaining, where he had Kerley open on an in-breaking route, and Kerley had a ton of room to run. He may have run to set them up for a field goal late in the first half. And that’s the kind of throw Kaepernick struggles to make. That demands the touch, page, and ball location I spoke about. He threw the ball too hard and too high, and that’s an easy NFL throw. Kerley was wide open. And there were a number of those kinds of throws as the game goes on.
And the other thing that he starts doing, and I don’t know if it’s just the flow of the game that gets to him, but he starts breaking down in the pocket and moving when there’s absolutely no need to move. He breaks down plays, plays that are there. And that happened a couple of times. I just know he missed Celek on a throw where he moved, where he didn’t have to, and just threw it away. Even at the end of the game guys, on the third down play that led to the 4th and 2, when he has Harper on that quick slant. That’s just not a good throw. He has to put that right between the numbers. And who knows, Harper might still be running.
On quick roll out with nobody rolling with him:
I know the play you’re talking about because I looked at that play over and over and over. Two things I look at it when I see something like that. The first thing I look at is how it’s blocked. Because if nobody’s blocking for a roll-out, you know the quarterback shouldn’t be rolling out. And secondly, I look at the route concept. Because if there’s no routes going to that side of the field, then he shouldn’t be rolling out. And there was neither one. So, whatever reason, those are the kinds of things we’re talking about, where he just, I don’t know what, this is what happens as games progress. Just, he starts out, there seems to be some comfort level when he starts up, as I said, the Bell throw, the Kerley throw, these are really nice throws. They’re throws that he sees immediately, I think the design of the play works and gives him immediately what he wants. But then, as the game progresses, he just breaks down. This continues to happen, and I don’t know where to go with this. I know that Chip Kelly is probably tearing his hair out a little bit, because he designed some pretty good plays.
On easy throws and any NFL quarterback being able to make them:
Well, it’s funny you say that Tom because, and I hate to say this, but the standard has become too low, that’s the thing. You’re right, and he misses way too many that are routine. The one I’m talking about with Celek that he missed, he was wide open on a crosser, I believe it was late in the second quarter. He broke down and there was no pressure on him at all. I mean, these are things you just can’t do.