It’s the standard response after hearing about the greatness of someone or something for so long — when regression hits, there’s a natural human desire to respond in kind with the same ferocity as the hype that came during the ascent. That’s where we are now with Colin Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick’s per game averages since Week 1: 157.9 YDS, 0.75 TD, 0.75 INT, 53.6 CMP% (73.1 RTG)
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) November 11, 2013
Pro tip: if you want to get a bunch of retweets, write something that paints the 49ers in a bad light and make sure it gets seen by a leading Seahawks blogger. But that tweet full of cherry-picked stats was nothing. Starting after Sunday’s game it was Trent Dilfer who really led the charge for Kaepernick doubters across the nation.
Dilfer — ESPN analyst and CEO of the Alex Smith Fan Club — called Kaepernick a “remedial passer after his first read is taken away.”
Ouch. Remedial is usually the kind of word used to describe someone who reads at a level at least two grades below their age group. Generally a guy who had a GPA higher than 4.0 in high school wouldn’t be referred to in those terms, but Dilfer gets paid to say things. He kept going the next day.
“I would be concerned if I were the 49ers, because there hasn’t been a lot of improvement on his part as a passer,” Dilfer said. “He can threaten more than as just a traditional passer, but you still have to develop as a passer. And he’s kind of stayed to this point as a passer who takes his first read and sticks with it. But if they take your first read away, that’s pretty much it. You don’t work deep through your progressions, you don’t get the ball out to other receivers.”
But what exactly can Kaepernick do, other than complete more passes for more yardage? The only satisfactory answer is to prepare like crazy, and the 49ers spent this week letting the public know that Kaepernick is doing exactly that.
Jim Harbaugh’s take
When those comments were referenced during Jim Harbaugh’s Monday press conference (without mentioning Dilfer’s name), the San Francisco 49ers head coach brushed them aside and focused on the team’s struggles to move the ball (without mentioning Kaepernick’s name).
“I understand what you’re doing, what you’re trying to do and glomming onto somebody’s opinion, but I think it’s whatever they think,” Harbaugh said. “The main thing is that we’ll look at it and talk about it with our players and see the areas that we can improve. Just dissecting it as a unit, we had … too many negative plays, loss of yardage plays, penalties, sack, turnover, that we’ve got to get better at. We didn’t do a good enough job.”
What Colin Kaepernick thinks
Kaepernick had a more direct response to Dilfer’s critiques, but only after he was pressed. Two different 49ers beat writers asked him about Dilfer yesterday. Matt Maiocco broached the subject first, then Eric Branch asked about Dilfer’s comments in a different way a few minutes later. I’ve included a transcript, but the video is worth watching in case you’re interested in seeing what Kaepernick looks like when he’s annoyed.
Are you aware of the comments that Trent Dilfer made sort of critiquing your game? I’m sure you are. What is your response to what he had to say about your ability to go through your progression?
“I didn’t hear what he had to say, but he’s not in the building with us so what he’s saying really doesn’t affect me at all. I’m worried about what this team thinks and what I’m doing in here with my teammates.”
Dilfer said that you had trouble going through progressions. Take away your first read, then you have trouble going through the rest of your progressions. You’ve heard that before. It seems to be somewhat of a knock on your ability, your intelligence as a quarterback, your sophistication as a quarterback. I don’t know, do you think that’s a fair criticism of you?
“Well, I think you should ask him if he knows what my progression is first before he says that.”
Greg Roman on Kaepernick
“He breaks it down step by step. He looks at everything and is very methodical about studying it. Much like a coach would,” Roman said today. “Colin’s progressing very nicely. And, there’s still an element of I’m seeing where somebody shows something for the first time. Obviously, there was a lot of that last year and very similar this year. I definitely think there is a punch-counterpunch thing, as there always is.”
Some might rush to judgment about the part where Roman said “the first time,” but I took that as Roman saying he’s seeing defenses do things for the first time and as an offensive coordinator he has to work on adjusting to the constant shifts and scheme-changes the 49ers are seeing. Granted, that would also mean Kaepernick is also getting a first look at those defensive wrinkles at the same time, but this is no shot on Kaepernick’s lack of experience on the part of Roman.
“He’s going to come out like no other and come out this Sunday and put on a show for us. That’s just what we need as a team,” said NaVorro Bowman. “He’s the leader of our team, and we expect nothing less.”
Kaepernick has a lot to prove on Sunday against the Saints, who have one of the best pass defenses in the league. His team still believes in him and the 49ers don’t mind winning ugly (translation: running two-thirds of the time and playing field position football), but it’ll take 200+ yards passing and a couple touchdowns to silence the doubters … for a week, anyway.