Tony Avelar/AP file photo49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has struggled during the 2014 season

Tony Avelar/AP file photo49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has struggled during the 2014 season

Kaepernick’s lack of progression holding back 49ers

Most of those who have discussed the problems with the 49ers have ignored the primary one: They don’t have a reliable quarterback. Colin Kaepernick can make spectacular plays but he can’t be consistent against top opponents.

That showed dramatically in the 49ers’ dreadful loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving night. When Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was blitzed, he scrambled, always looking downfield until he found a receiver and often connecting. When Kaepernick was pressured, he decided to test the best corner in the NFL, Richard Sherman. The pass was offline, right into Sherman’s hands. As Sherman noted later, “He said he was going to throw to the open man. I was the open man.”

That’s Kaepernick. He’s a gunslinger, always trying to prove he can beat any defense and any team. That can work against weaker teams. It doesn’t work against quality opponents. More and more, it seems Kaepernick’s career peaked in his first season, when teams didn’t know him. It’s not working now, especially not against Seattle.

Kaepernick is certainly smart enough off the field, but there’s often a big difference between regular intelligence and athletic intelligence.

Willie Mays is probably the best example. Mays is of average intelligence off the field but his athletic intelligence is off the charts. I saw him score for the Giants one time on a pitch that bounced in the dirt and went no more than six feet away from New York Mets catcher Choo Choo Coleman, who simply stared in disbelief as Mays scored standing up. Years later, Mays explained to me that he saw as the ball left the pitcher’s hand that it would be in the dirt, so he just started running. You can’t teach that.

Joe Montana and Steve Young are another example. Off the field, Young is clearly the more intelligent but Montana slipped into the Bill Walsh system almost effortlessly, leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl win in his first year as a starter. Young struggled to learn the system, often using his feet to get big gains until, as he said in a recent interview, he realized that a quarterback wins championships only when he learns how to stay in the pocket and throw downfield.

Kaepernick still hasn’t learned that lesson. I doubt he ever will because he’s basically playing the same way he did when he was first made a starter with the 49ers. It worked better that first year because nobody in the league knew him. Now, they do.

He’s obviously not the only problem. Because of injuries, the offensive line has not protected him well, so he’s had to face a much fiercer pass rush than earlier. But he doesn’t handle that well, either. He’ll abandon the pocket at the first sign of a hard rush and, unlike Wilson, he doesn’t look downfield. Usually what he’ll do is run off to the right, which reduces his targets for a pass, and then takes off running. Sometimes, he succeeds only in holding the ball long enough to get sacked.

General manager Trent Baalke is probably looking right now at a potential trade or drafting a quarterback. Kaepernick is not the answer.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

Colin KaepernickGlenn DickeySan Francisco 49ersSeattle Seahawks

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Construction in the Better Market Street Project between Fifth and Eighth streets is expected to break ground in mid-2021.<ins></ins>
SFMTA board to vote on Better Market Street changes

Agency seeks to make up for slimmed-down plan with traffic safety improvements

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an event to name President-elect Joe Biden’s economic team at the Queen Theater on Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)
Kamala Harris to resign from Senate

Bridget Bowman CQ-Roll Call Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will resign from the… Continue reading

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Pelosi called for the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump a day after his supporters stormed the Capitol. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
Feds seeking woman whose ex says she stole Nancy Pelosi’s laptop during Capitol riot

Jeremy Roebuck The Philadelphia Inquirer Federal authorities have obtained an arrest warrant… Continue reading

Most Read