By TED SILLANPAA
49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick is getting national media attention for kissing his own biceps after he scores a touchdown, but he should be getting it for being an other-worldly quarterback prospect. It seems silly to consider him a prospect after his record-setting playoff performance against the Packers, but he is still a work in progress … an amazing work in progress.
Kaepernick is making it clear that even the most prominent, knowledgable NFL analysts don’t know what it takes to succeed as a starting quarterback. A year ago, analysts were explaining that Tim Tebow was a wildly inaccurate passer because he had a long, loopy passing motion. Kaepernick has the same type of motion, he reaches way back to throw a pass. He, however, has proven to be incredibly accurate on short, mid-range and long throws. So, Kaepernick has proven it’s all about repeating a passing motion that works.
Those same NFL analysts moan constantly about how running quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton simply can’t survive and have a long, healthy career in the NFL. They run that read-option, just like Kaepernick does. They take lots of hits. Big hits. So, experts figure that no NFL quarterback has ever lasted very long running and getting tackled … so Griffin III and the rest can’t either. Kaepernick runs the read option and analysts don’t seem to question that he can take the punishment that comes when a quarterback runs the ball frequently. Kaepernick has proven that his incredible speed, size, strength and ability to deliver a blow at the end of a run when necessary works.
By now, even Kaepernick’s critics and those most insistent that the decision to bench Alex Smith killed the 49ers have been quieted. What can they say to extend the argument that Smith, not Kaepernick should be the Niners No. 1? The folks who insist that the 49ers need the offense to play it safe with Smith to win the Super Bowl simply can’t say that now, not after Kaepernick put on one of the most amazing playoff performances by a quarterback in playoff history.
Kaepernick has something even the best of the mobile quarterbacks lack. The guy goes from zero-to-full speed in about a stride and a half. When there’s a crack in the pass rush, he’s gone in a flash and he’s at full speed by the time the time he passes the line of scrimmage.
When the defense turns its back on Kaepernick to defend the pass, he does what Joe Montana and Steve Young could do and runs. The difference? Kaepernick’s so fast that the defense is tasked with trying to catch and tackle a 6-foot-4, 230-pound sprinter who doesn’t slide to safety at the first sign of danger.
As was witnessed on the Niners’ first possession Saturday, Kaepernick’s going to make mistakes. That pass interception returned for a touchdown was just a … bad idea. But, at this point, we can probably understand why Kaepernick will at a times be guilty of thinking he can do anything he wants, right?
Kaepernick will be starting his ninth NFL game in the NFC Championship at Atlanta. He could still be an inconsistent performer. It would be foolhardy to expect him to do to the Falcons what he did to the Packers … although the Falcons have loads of trouble with quarterbacks who can run. (Newton destroyed Atlanta twice this season.) There will be times when the 49ers spread out from sideline to sideline to give Kaepernick room to run and … the blocking will break down and he won’t get anywhere. There could be tough times ahead.
Only a moron would still be arguing that Jim Harbaugh’s bold decision to hand the quarterback job to Kaepernick, a guy who might redefine the position, was anything but an incredible display of leadership and understanding of a player and a team.