Fans overreact on Kap’s struggles
It wasn’t too long ago when a scrawny, scrappy young quarterback galloped along a football field, frustrating defenses every Saturday in the fall.
He was the best thing to come to Northern Nevada in recent memory, and he was the best thing to leave the area. Drafted in the second round to one of the area’s biggest professional teams, he traded in the silver and blue for the red and gold as he studied under one of the best quarterbacks coach in the game. We didn’t get a good glimpse at him in the first year but midway through that second season, he set the NFL on fire as he led his team to the Super Bowl, just falling short almost three years ago.
Since then, we’re seeing a different version of this once-popular NFL quarterback.
After dazzling us during the 49ers’ Super Bowl run and then leading the team back to the NFC title game the following year, Colin Kaepernick’s head is being requested by the 49er fan base. San Francisco went through one of the worst off-seasons in NFL history when it fired Jim Harbaugh, let a bunch of talented free agents depart and saw a few defensive studs retire.
But you can’t blame the 49ers’ regression this season all on Kaepernick. Who else would be no better than the only college coach to offer Kaepernick a scholarship?
“They went from a veteran line to a line of guys that are just trying to come together as a unit,” ex-Nevada coach Chris Ault told Fox Sports. “I’m sure we could look at film and say that he left the pocket too soon, but I think you have to put the shoe on the other foot. The front is not cohesive at this particular time. I know they’re working on it, there’s no question about it, but he can’t block for himself. He’s the type of player — rather than say, ‘I’ll take a sack,’ he’s the guy that will try to make something happen.”
The 49ers’ offensive line went through changes, not to mention the coaching regime is much different. Kaepernick was forced to become a pocket passer instead of harnessing his strengths of throwing on the run and frustrating defenses with the zone read. You saw the result last year and Kaepernick seemed to be sacked once on every series. Just let the man run loose.
However, with this year’s revamped offense and youthfulness, Kaepernick is spending less time in the pocket but for the wrong reason. The offensive line isn’t strong, making the ex-Pack quarterback rush his reads, which lead to ill-advised passes or sacks. But when the line is working as a unit, the results are the complete opposite.
Kaepernick passed well against Pittsburgh last month on the road and on Sunday Night Football this past weekend as the gunslinger looked comfortable against the Giants. He turned in one of his better performances in the last two years and had a solid-looking two-minute drive that unfortunately gave New York too much time to make the comeback.
Ault isn’t worried that Kaepernick won’t return to his old self and resume his path to becoming one of the best in the NFL. Kaepernick wasn’t always perfect with the Wolf Pack, even during the magical 2010 season when Nevada upset Boise State. If you recall, Kaepernick’s mistakes in Hawaii led to the team’s lone loss of the season.
“I can tell you this, and he had some bad games with us at Nevada, but this guy is a vicious competitor,” Ault said. “You may not see it, but I’m telling you that he is. His vision is real clear on where he’s at, what he has to do to get better, and he’ll find a way. He is one of the most competitive players that I’ve ever coached.”
49er fans shouldn’t be worried about their quarterback. Give him some time. Let him be the quarterback Northern Nevada grew to watch and love.
Let Kaepernick be … Kaepernick.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at email@example.com.