Most of you have probably heard the latest heartbreaking piece of Oakland Raiders lore by now — Al Davis really wanted Colin Kaepernick. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King broke the bad news to Raider Nation early Monday morning, making the trip back to the 2011 draft a suddenly devastating one for fans of the silver and black.
King was with Kaepernick when he made a surprise visit to his alma mater, Pitman High School, for their graduation ceremony on Thursday. While there, he asked the quarterback and his father about reports the Raiders wanted to draft him.
“Coach [Hue] Jackson told me before the draft they were going to do everything they could to try to get me,” said Kaepernick. “I thought there was a good chance they’d pick me. I never heard anything from the 49ers before the draft after I worked out for them [at Nevada]. I just figured they weren’t interested.”
The inability to read Trent Baalke’s poker face has become a staple for the new 49ers’ front office. For fans and media alike, this can be an absolutely brutal trait. Good luck trying to get a beat on injuries, free agent interest and draft plans. But it’s their stealth and tight-lipped nature that makes franchise-altering moves like securing Kaepernick possible.
Baalke called the Patriots, who owned the first pick of the second round, and offered two third-round picks (one in ’11, one in ’12) to move up 12 spots. New England wanted one of the thirds to be a second. No dice, Baalke said. Oakland called New England too, and failed to get the pick. “When we talked internally,” Jackson said, “we knew we needed to fortify the offensive line, and we really liked Stefan Wisniewski. I think [Al Davis] felt we’d get a lineman who we figured could play for us for 10 years, then we had two third-round picks, and we’d try to move up late in the second round or higher in the third and try to get Colin.”
But the 49ers knew the Raiders loved Kaepernick; it’d been in the media before the draft. So they kept working the top of the second round, and finally got the Broncos, at 36, to bite. Good price, too: It didn’t cost the Niners two third-round picks to move up; it cost fourth- and fifth-rounders. “When they made the trade,” Jackson said, “I knew exactly what they were going to do. They were going to take Colin.”
The Raiders aren’t the first NFL team to tip their hand, but the contrast in draft plan exposure is a perfect example of why San Francisco has done so well since Baalke took the reins. No one outside of San Francisco’s war room — not even Kaepernick — knew the 49ers were interested in the Nevada quarterback. Everybody knew the Raiders wanted him, though. It’s why the 49ers didn’t hesitate in securing a position ahead of Oakland (and any other interested team) to get their man.
Whose man was Kap, anyway?
If you believe Trent Dilfer, Baalke and Harbaugh don’t always see eye to eye:
“Jim fought for drafting Kaepernick,” Dilfer said. “They could have had [Andy] Dalton [who went 35th to Cincinnati, one spot ahead of where the 49ers traded up to]. Everybody wanted Dalton except him. [49ers general manager Trent] Baalke threw him a bone because it was his first year. Kaepernick was his guy. He went and worked him out, he thought he found him, and he swears to this day the only reason Kaepernick went that high was because of the momentum generated because of him. That’s his guy.”
I would love to be a fly on the wall for their pre-draft meetings (although I’d probably be swatted for security reasons). Everybody who wanted Dalton wouldn’t have been wrong, but Kaepernick has shown a ceiling much higher than the Bengals’ quarterback in his first 10 starts.
Either way, it was Harbaugh’s eye for talent, Baalke’s ability to maneuver in the draft trade market, and their collective desire to stay completely mum that allowed the 49ers to land their quarterback of the future.
As for Davis and the Raiders?
Rick Kaepernick, Colin’s dad, told me he’d heard Al Davis threw a glass across the room when it was announced San Francisco had taken him.
“I don’t know that he threw anything,” said Jackson. “But he was upset. So was I. Scouting him, I fell in love with the kid. Leader, won a ton of games at Nevada, really impressive when you talked to him, strong, all the tools to win in the NFL. No doubt in my mind he was going to be good.”