The San Francisco 49ers offense was a mess on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, and we might just have to blame small hands. No, this is not an article about Alex Smith. Colin Kaepernick got limited work against the Bears, throwing five passes, and having 12 total drop-backs through 3+ quarters of work. It was odd given how much more work Matt Barkley got, and then the increase in passing rate when Blaine Gabbert came in the game.
Earlier this week, NFL Films producer Greg Cosell was on KNBR talking about the 49ers game. He suggested that maybe Kaepernick does not throw a wet or cold ball very well, and wondered if his slightly smaller hands (for a quarterback) impacted this. Here’s a transcript of Cosell’s comments:
Well, you know, it’s tough to get a handle on a guy when he only throws five balls. To me, what’s most fascinating about that is, what Chip’s approach was. Chip clearly did not want him to throw the ball. See that to me is more interesting to talk about than what Kaepernick’s numbers were. Although it was clear to me, Kaepernick does not throw a wet or cold ball very well. Because there was a throw, I think it was near where he came out of the game, so it was probably third quarter, where he had drawn a one-on-one, they split him out and he was on a linebacker, and he beat him on sluggo, and he underthrough him.
But if you watch Kaepernick throw the ball from a clean pocket, it almost looks like he shot-puts the ball. I checked to see what his hand size was — just because I didn’t remember that from the combine. He actually has small hands. So I’m wondering if he really just couldn’t throw the ball effectively in this kind of weather. Troy Aikman always said, “I couldn’t throw a wet ball.” Some quarterbacks can’t do this. And he sort of shot-put that ball, so he missed that throw, he left it well short. And then of course, his final throw of the game, he had McDonald wide open and made a bad throw.
The small hands discussion lasted quite a while with Alex Smith, and even Smith admitted it became a running joke with his family. In reality, Smith has 9 3/8 inch hands, while Kaepernick’s are 9 1/8. But even that does not tell the whole story. I recall Kaepernick’s performance in 2012 against the New England Patriots. It was not snowing, but there was a steady rain in sub-40 degree temperatures. He completed 14 of 25 passes for 221 yard, with four touchdowns and one interception. It was not a fantastic game in terms of completion percentage, but he was quite effective for significant stretches of the game.
That’s only one game, so I won’t pretend that is the end of the argument about Kaepernick and inclement weather. This marks the 49ers final inclement weather game of the year, and outside of the playoffs, they don’t play many games like this on a regular basis. But it’s an interesting consideration for why the 49ers offensive coaching staff chose to do on Sunday against the Bears.