Jed York went on NFL Network to reiterate that the parting with Jim Harbaugh was indeed mutual (to be fair, I agree with York’s assessment — although I have strong suspicions that he, not Harbaugh, was the first one to broach the breakup idea). But the Baalk has been spilt and enough tears have been shed. The more interesting part of York’s interview was his plan for the future, when he explained the (his?) plan for Colin Kaepernick.
First, let’s give a little background with his comments about the kind of team they want to be next season (h/t to Eric Branch of the Chronicle for these quotes).
“You’ve got a lot of (coaches) who are there, and you’re going to have people that understand what we do well and put our players in a position to make plays. And it’s very simple. You look at Seattle. They have a fairly simple philosophy on both sides of the ball. They let their players make plays. There’s something to be said for that. And I think you’re going to see a lot of that from us. You’re going to see a lot of intensity, a lot of competition — but put our players in position to make plays.”
Besides a younger running back, a slightly better defense, fewer guys on IR (and four more wins, including a season sweep of the Niners), how was Seattle different from San Francisco in 2014?
Back to York’s interview …
Is fixing Colin Kaepernick the top offseason priority?
JY: It’s not fixing Kaepernick. I think Kap is an unbelievable player. He’s a young guy that continues to need to grow and mature, but we all do. You look at Anquan Boldin. Anquan Boldin is going to try to get better in the offseason and he’s already a Hall of Famer. Frank Gore is the same way. But with Kap, again, you’ve got a guy in Geep Chryst that knows him better than anybody else. You’ve got a great guy in Steve Logan that’s coming in that’s going to work with him on fundamentals and allow us to put together a system that’s going to put Kap in the best position to make plays. How many quarterbacks in this league can run 90 yards for a touchdown? I can’t think of many. But you’ve got to put Kap in a position where he can make those plays. And put Kap in a position where we can run the ball. We can throw the ball in ways that allow him to be successful, and let him be the absolute stud that he can be on the field. And I think that’s what you’re going to see from us next year. Defenses are not going to want to play against us because you’re not going to know where we’re going to hit you.
A few things that immediately come to mind.
1. York is speaking like a fan.
“Defenses are not going to want to play against us because you’re not going to know where we’re going to hit you,” says York. These sound like the words of someone who pays for red and gold face paint. His comment was also fairly amusing, since Trent Baalke already said, “We’re going to run the football,” and York himself is letting the world know that they plan on taking advantage of Kaepernick’s running ability.
Fans have been saying this throughout the last two seasons, as Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman (and possibly Geep Chryst, who knows) were looking to protect Kaepernick during the regular season. We found out after the 2013 season that Kaepernick suffered an injury to his foot in September that limited his mobility. He was sacked an NFL-high 55 times in 2014 (and made his way onto the team’s injury report with a back ailment). So maybe there were reasons to limit Kaepernick’s carries other than protecting him for the playoffs. However, that’s impossible to determine unless Harbaugh or Roman make that known.
Whether it’s a good idea for York to show off his football acumen to the media is another story entirely. But until he starts drafting players and signing free agents, let’s wait until we start comparing him to Jerry Jones. However, when York said “it’s very simple,” you get the idea that he thinks coaching (or “teaching”) techniques and fundamentals is far more important than fussing over schemes that may actually be too complicated. It could also be a look into his thoughts on the overrated-ness of coaches … or not. Let’s move on.
2. Losing to the Seahawks drove York and Baalke CRAZY.
I wish York and Baalke would’ve been mic’d up during those last three losses against the Seahawks. Wouldn’t a chance to hear them question Harbaugh and Roman and scream epithets at Pete Carroll and Richard Sherman be the one thing that could’ve made those contests palatable for 49ers fans?
The NFL is a copycat league, but saying the 49ers should be more like Seattle is just one more slap to Harbaugh’s face. I’m guessing that isn’t by accident.
3. 49ers are throwing Kaepernick to the wolves, and they don’t care.
If you’re an NFC West coach, you LOVE the comments York made yesterday. It makes defensive game-planning so easy — just focus on stopping Kaepernick’s designed runs and see how the 49ers respond.
It’s pretty obvious what York is thinking here.
— Kaepernick has been known to pull off some of his greatest scrambles when he takes off with assertiveness (instead of getting flushed out of the pocket).
— Kaepernick looked like a brand new quarterback in Weeks 16 and 17, when he rushed 14 times for 214 yards and that 90-yard touchdown York mentioned. (Of course, those games didn’t matter at all … but let’s not let details get in the way of a good narrative.)
— THE BOTTOM LINE: The 49ers can cut Kaepernick before April 1 in each season of this mega-extension and owe him nothing from that point forward. So why protect him like he’s made of porcelain?
Kaepernick is talented. Even his strongest detractors would admit this. But as a pocket passer, he is not worth eight figures for one season’s worth of quarterbacking. The only way he’s worth top-10 money is if he’s throwing for 200 yards and rushing for 100, at least in York’s mind.
All of Harbaugh’s and Roman’s decisions were made with the future in mind, sometimes to their detriment (if they were better at staying in the moment, maybe they wouldn’t have taken so long to relay plays to the quarterback as the play clock wound down). This idea that the 49ers need to unleash Kaepernick as their version of Wilson is simplistic, visceral thinking (especially since Kaepernick is more like a thoroughbred to Wilson’s jackrabbit in terms of escapability), and it goes against everything Harbaugh and Roman believed. Which is kind of the point.