He may have only started ten games in his two year NFL career, however according to ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick could soon be thought of as “one of the greatest quarterbacks ever.” High praise given his limited track record, however such is the case for all four of the young signal callers who emerged during the 2012 season.
The greatest quarterback ever? Come on Jaws, could that be any more premature?
I’ll admit, Colin Kaepernick did electrify the NFL world a season ago as he led his team to the Super Bowl after taking over for Alex Smith midway through the year. His mobility was a major asset that Coach Harbaugh recognized and rebuilt the offense around. The read-option dominated every team they faced with the exception of the St. Louis Rams, including a ridiculous effort against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round.
However there is a lot of reasons to question whether the high level of play is sustainable, and when examining the numbers Jaws prediction looks unlikely.
For starters the NFL is now a pass oriented league. There is still a place for the running game, and we have seen creative variations emerge to be wildly successful to the point every team implements their version of the technique into their offense. The problem is that NFL defenses figure out a way to stop these new wrinkles awful quickly.
To illustrate that point, two examples from the past few seasons will be used. Remember the Wild Cat in Miami, that enabled them to literally run over the competition? The Wild Cat became a term as well known as the West Coast Offense overnight, with just about every team in the league using it in some fashion.
Tim Tebow then took over the Denver Broncos during the 2011 season, showing that a primarily mobile quarterback can lead a professional team to the playoffs. Tebow’s passing numbers were abysmal, but he did enough with his legs to win games.
In the present day, both the Wild Cat and Tebow have fallen off of the NFL radar. Defenses adjusted to both developments, finding a way to stop them in their tracks. Those relying on the use of the Wild Cat and Tebow have been disappointed in the success of late. Tebow is currently struggling to make the Patriots roster after being a THIRD STRING quarterback for the Jets a year ago.
So just how are these examples of how Jaworski was off on Colin Kaepernick? As a primarily mobile quarterback, teams will eventually adjust to his read-option style. The Rams possibly already gave the league that blue print last season. Now every team he faces will have a years worth of film and possibly personal experience squaring off against him. He will need to become more well-rounded to live up to his high expectations.
To do that he needs to become a better passer. With the high number of footballs thrown around on an NFL game, Kaepernick is far behind the trend. In an era where Drew Brees can post 5,000 yard seasons without anyone so much as blinking an eye, 4,000 yards has become a benchmark for being a top-tier quarterback. To pass for 4,000 yards in a year one must average 250 yards a game. Kaepernick only hit that mark once, in week 17. He has never eclipsed the 300 yard mark in the regular season.
He only had 1,814 yards passing last year. Good enough for an average of 216 yards per game. That puts him 22nd among passers in 2012, behind the likes of Brandon Weeden, Nick Foles, and Josh Freeman.
In terms of scoring the ball, he was no better with his arm than he was at gaining yards. His 1.25 passing touchdowns per game average would equal 20 TDs if averaged out for an entire season. Assuming he would have done that in 2012, he would have trailed Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Palmer, both of which were let go by their team in the offseason.
Jaws may be right to “love his skill set,” and “think the sky’s the limit.” But we should probably temper our expectations for this season especially considering the troubles he has at wide receiver. Michael Crabtree, the team’s number one wide out is done for the year, leaving Anquan Boldin leading an incredibly shallow group of pass catchers.
A rising star, Colin Kaepernick has to develop into a well-rounded passer if he wants to live up to Jaworski’s expectations. He has all the talent, however the read-option will be figured out eventually, forcing him to become more of a drop back passer.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express