The 49ers have a decision to make: Whether to extend Colin Kaepernick’s contract, which will impact their future. It will also affect Kaepernick in ways he may not full understand.
Any quarterback needs good receivers but, beyond that, he also needs a good running attack to take off the pressure and a defense which can stop the other team and get the ball back.
Kaepernick has had both of those, but it’s expecting too much to think that running back Frank Gore will continue to be as effective at 31 years old, as he will be in the upcoming season.
The defense has already taken a big hit with the horrendous injury to linebacker NaVarro Bowman. At the very least, he will miss most of next season, and it’s unreasonable to think he’ll be able to contribute much at all.
In addition, salary-cap realities will cause other players to leave, and age may finally slow down Justin Smith.
Because of Kaepernick’s struggles in the red zone, the 49ers have been able to win games even when they often had to settle for field goals, though it cost them a regular-season game against Carolina. But if their defense falters slightly, Kapernick won’t have that safety blanket.
His bad habits have persisted. He still locks in on a receiver, without looking off defenders. He still has his favorite receivers and ignores others. For most of last season, he had Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Were other receivers any good? Who knows, because Kaepernick resolutely refused to throw to them.
In the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson hit Doug Baldwin, an undrafted free agent out of Stanford, for huge gains. Sometimes you have to give a young receiver a chance to make a play, but Kaepernick never has.
Worst of all, for two years in a row, in the biggest games of the season, Kaepernick made stupid decisions at the end that caused the Niners to lose. In last year’s Super Bowl, he threw three straight passes to Michael Crabtree. The Baltimore Ravens had scouted his tendencies and triple-covered Crabtree, knocking down all three passes. In the last minute of the NFC Championship Game last month, he saw Crabtree in single coverage against Richard Sherman, so he went for it. If you’re going to challenge the best cornerback in the league, you throw to the back pylon so if your receiver can’t get it, the pass is out of bounds. Kaepernick threw short of that, Sherman tipped the ball into the air and Malcolm Smith intercepted it. Game over.
Will Kaepernick change his pattern? I doubt it. I see a young man who has been blessed with great physical ability and has always been able to use that to win. It worked on a lower level, but in the NFL, teams scout so thoroughly and the athletes are so good that physical ability isn’t always enough.
I think the Niners should wait a year before extending Kaepernick’s contract and see if he can change. And in the meantime, they should draft a quarterback — maybe Alabama’s A.J. McCarron if he’s still there in the second round. Don’t waste your resources on a young man who may never change.