Alex Boone

The 49ers ruined Colin Kaepernick


The 49ers lost 17-3 to the Packers this afternoon, and Colin Kaepernick is currently a terrible quarterback. When Troy Aikman, as milquetoast as it gets, says the quarterback possibly “saw a ghost” while trying to explain a wobbling short pass at a receiver’s feet in the red zone, things are really bad.

What, we expected a great game? We already knew Kaepernick was the 49ers’ new fall guy, and his teammates and coaches all knew it too.

Not only is Kaepernick throwing interceptions, taking sacks and losing games, he’s losing his team. Alex Boone mouthed the word “quarterback” to Joe Staley when one of FOX’s cameras showed them on the bench during the fourth quarter — there’s no way the context could’ve been complimentary. Anquan Boldin looks like he’s ready to tear every bit of Levi’s sod up from the ground whenever Kaepernick overthrows one of his sideline routes. Torrey Smith misses Joe Flacco like the deserts miss the rain.

Kaepernick’s confidence is gone. Fans are looking for the 49ers to replace him with Blaine Gabbert.

Hmmm … this sounds familiar.

Candlestick faithful once chanted David Carr’s name when Alex Smith struggled, while a totally-over-his-head coach with frighteningly little experience named Mike Singletary stalked the sideline. Smith never played with anything approaching confidence until the 49ers put together one of the best offensive lines in the league and brought in Jim Harbaugh, who accentuated Smith’s strengths — intelligence, mobility and caution.

Harbaugh liked Kaepernick’s attributes — speed, arm strength and fearlessness — even more, and the two won a lot of games together in a short period. To think that the same quarterback who went sleeveless in Lambeau when the wind chill made it feel like -14 degrees and led the 49ers to a 23-20 win looks like this in 2015 … well, it would’ve been hard to fathom less than two years ago. But the 49ers, through a series of awful decisions, buried a rising star.

The front office let the world know that Harbaugh was not long for the job. Within weeks of losing the NFC Championship in Seattle (a game the 49ers would’ve lost by 10+ if Kaepernick didn’t play out of his mind in the second and third quarters, before his unfortunate decision to test Richard Sherman at the end), Harbaugh’s future was in question.

When employees feel like they’re walking the plank, they make different decisions than they would normally. Whether that’s why Harbaugh and Greg Roman tried to make Kaepernick into something he’s not, or they saw defenses adjusting to a single-read quarterback who really wanted to run more than anything else, who knows. However, here are the facts: Kaepernick played very well in 2012 and 2013 (with a QB rating of well over 90), and then he regressed in 2014 while his mentor dodged friendly fire.

Not one person has called Kaepernick lazy. Perhaps he spends more time on his physique than he should, considering his weaknesses. But who predicted he’d regress after 2013? Just about everyone thought he’d get better, because that’s what generally happens with healthy quarterbacks in their mid-20s.

Kaepernick was never a master quarterback in the way Steve Young describes the craft, but he also won four playoff games, three on the road. Now he has no idea what he’s doing, he’s running around in circles, and his passes are flying out of bounds. We can either question his mental acuity, say he never had “it” all along, or take a moment to wonder if ANY PROMINENT PLAYER on this roster has gotten markedly better over the last 20 games throughout all of this turmoil.

“It’s up to Kap to save us!”

The pro-49ers faction of the media said this with something approaching glee heading into this season, didn’t they?

With so many players fleeing, and a new (OK, kind of) coaching staff, the 49ers and their “young and talented roster” would go as far as Kaepernick took them this season. We heard that a thousand times. And Kaepernick, like Harbaugh a year ago, changed things up quite a bit heading into his make-or-break year. After working with Harbaugh during the season and some receivers during the offseason over the first four years of his career, Kaepernick sought the tutelage of Kurt Warner’s crew in Arizona, a decision championed by Trent Dilfer. Dilfer was the one who called Kaepernick’s quarterbacking “remedial” in 2013 (a shot at Harbaugh that ownership surely loved), then gushed with ridiculously effusive praise when Kaepernick played a very Dilfer-like game (without the interceptions) in the 49ers’ 20-3 win over the Vikings.

While Kaepernick was working with Warner’s people, the 49ers were still “looking” for an offensive coordinator. (I put that in quotes because I believe they wanted to bring Geep Chryst back at a team-friendly price all along.) Think about that. Kaepernick was in the process of remaking his mechanics and playing style, and he had no idea what offense he’d run in 2015. There’s no way Kaepernick felt secure about his future with this team, and that’s before we examine the trade rumors that turned into nothing.

The 49ers’ defense was horrendous in Glendale a week ago, but Ted Robinson told every single KNBR host he could that Kaepernick was the problem. Robinson referenced an event he attended this past week along with several “successful Silicon Valley executives,” and how one CEO compared himself to Kaepernick. The CEO told Robinson that when he walks into a boardroom, he needs to be respected as THE CEO. (You could probably cut the narcissism at that party with a spork.)

Robinson asked this question on multiple shows: Does Kaepernick have that kind of respect from his teammates? The writing was on the wall for Kaepernick before today’s game against the Packers (who were in full “let’s not show the rest of the NFL what we can really do” mode throughout) even started. The CEO story has Jed York written all over it, and Robinson is trying to keep his job after getting suspended by the 49ers last year. He knows exactly what the front office wants us to hear.

Trent Baalke wanted Andy Dalton. Kap was Harbaugh’s guy. Time to take out the trash.

The easy rebuttal: Kaepernick is playing terribly.

But how is this a surprise?

— Chryst should not be an offensive coordinator. He called for a Reggie Bush (golly, what an impact he made today) carry up the middle on 3rd-and-11 today … in the third quarter when the 49ers still had a chance.

— The 49ers knew their offensive line was going to be terrible, and they didn’t add one starting-caliber offensive lineman this offseason. Blame Anthony Davis all you want. They know better than anyone that he’s the kind of guy who might bail on the team at any moment. They drafted him. Intelligent teams plan for relative catastrophes like Davis’ retirement.

“I think somewhere in there, he said were going to run the football.” — Baalke (Jan. 15, 2015)

“But with Kap you got a guy in Geep Chryst who knows him better than anybody else,” York said. “You have a great guy in Steve Logan that’s coming in that’s going to work with him on fundamentals and to put 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 have to put Kap in position where he can make those plays and put Kap in position where we can run the ball. We can throw the ball in ways that allows him to be successful and let him be the absolute stud that he can be on the field, and 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.” — York (Jan. 30, 2015)

“We’re not a drop-back team. We’re not built that way. We’re not built like other teams.” — Jim Tomsula Sept. 28, 2015)

So Kaepernick has an awful offensive line, only two of their five receivers would get snaps for at least 80% of NFL teams (and one of their top two wideouts is 35), and everyone from the owner to the head coach let the league know that Kaepernick will run constantly this year when he isn’t rolling to his right and throwing short passes. Wow, what a tough case to crack for opposing defensive coordinators.

Quarterbacking in the NFL is incredibly difficult. A sizable contingent of 49ers fans believe that Aaron Rodgers would’ve been a far worse player if the 49ers drafted him with the first overall pick for a reason. If a quarterback has very little support, either on or off the field, he has no chance.

Here’s what’s going to happen to Kaepernick. We already know he’s gone next year, and we’ll see how smart his representatives are this offseason. If they have his best interests at heart, he’ll sign with one of the top teams (Patriots, Packers, Broncos) as a backup and learn from actual coaches. After all, the one thing he has on his side, even now, is health. It’s not like there are a lot of great quarterbacks out there. Kaepernick’s career could last well into his 30s if he finds another winning situation or two. But if his people are all about A$AP money, he’ll sign with an awful team that promises a starting job and he’ll be out of the league within two or three seasons.

The 49ers are going to sink to the bottom of the NFL standings, and they’ll be in the market for a quarterback. But it’ll be tough not to pity any signal caller who has the misfortune of getting drafted by Baalke, a scout who prefers to focus on the defensive side, who along with York has built one of the worst coaching staffs in franchise history … since the staff that was there before they hired Harbaugh, at least.

Niners Notes

— The defense played pretty well today. At least with all of these problems and roster departures, the 49ers can still stop Adrian Peterson and contain Rodgers.

— How would this game have gone if Michael Wilhoite didn’t shove Randall Cobb (a stupid move since Wilhoite lined up more than five yards away from the line of scrimmage)? The 49ers still would’ve lost, but the second half might have been a bit more interesting.

— Jarryd Hayne has a lot of respect from opposing teams — the Packers went to great lengths to either pin him on the sideline or punt the ball out of bounds.

— Vance McDonald is awful. Bradley Pinion is a rookie, so the jury is still out, but he seems like another questionable draft pick by Baalke as well.

— Quinton Patton had his best game as a pro. He showed some impressive speed when he took off down the left sideline on the 49ers’ best play of the day. And no dumb penalties! Progress for Patton.

— Carlos Hyde rushed eight times for 20 yards against a team that came into this game allowing a league-worst 5.0 yards per carry. Everyone knows what the 49ers are doing — a sad story for the team that used to employ Bill Walsh.

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