The Rise of Colin Kaepernick
Fire up the DeLorean, we’re going back to 2012. The world didn’t end but Alex Smith’s season did after he suffered a concussion. The next man up turned into the hottest hand in the league and took the starting job from Alex Smith, his name was Colin Kaepernick. He was throwing darts and kissing his bicep after running in a touchdown on your favorite team’s defense. After going 5-2 as the starter to wrap up the 2012 season he went on a tear in the playoffs.
He out dueled Aaron Rodgers in the divisional round throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns while giving the Packers defense 181 yards on the ground as well. He packed Matt Ryan and the Falcons up at their house home in the NFC championship game to reach the Super Bowl. In a losing effort Kaepernick was still able to put on a show at the show of shows.
That following March former starting quarterback Alex Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. It was evident that the 49ers present and future was to fall on the shoulders of Colin Kaepernick. The 2013 season was just a continuation of what the 49ers did in 2012. The team finished the season on a six game win streak with a final record of 12-4.
Kaepernick threw for 3,197 yards with 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Once again leading the 49ers to a playoff victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers but this time in frigid Lambeau. Rodgers has never been immunized against the 49ers and he certainly couldn’t fight off Colin-7. The 49ers would end up back in the NFC championship game but fell short to the Seattle Seahawks in a wild game.
At the time it didn’t seem like it was the beginning of the end for the 49ers. Two straight championship game appearances, a super bowl appearance, it looked like the 49ers were going to be the team of the 2010’s. Just like episodes of MTV’s Catfish have shown us, looks can be very deceiving.
49ers Fall From Grace
In 2013 the 49ers defense ranked third in the league, by 2016 they fell to the worst ranked defense in the NFL. A decline that started in 2014 when Patrick Willis missed most of the season due to a toe injury that would lead to him retiring the following offseason. Injuries on the other side of the ball to tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree only hardened the collective blow to the team.
Even with all of this going the 49ers were 7-4 through 11 games but the wheels fell off and they would finish 8-8. More change was in store that of following off season when the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh parted ways. The team would enter the 2015 season with a new head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator.
Change didn’t stop at personnel it also trickled down to the players. The 49ers number one receiver was a 35 year old Anquan Boldin opposite former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. With Vance McDonald at tight end, gone were the days of Crabtree and Davis. More importantly, gone were the days of Colin Kaepernick’s success.
Kaepernick’s numbers fell off a cliff as he went 2-5 as a starter in 2015. Quarterback wins and losses shouldn’t be counted like pitchers in the MLB but they are. In reality football is a team sport where you have to be good in all three phases to win ball games. The 49ers finished 5-11.
The 49ers were no longer good on defense, the offensive weapons were depleted, and the coaching staff was terrible. Colin Kaepernick was the captain of a sinking ship in the middle of a hurricane. The 2016 season showed that when it rains it truly does pour.
Chip Kelly took over as the 49ers head coach. Everything in San Fran was new, new offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, and new mediocre receivers for Kaepernick. Surprisingly 2016 was Kaepernick’s best statistical season since 2013. He threw for over 2,00 with 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Unfortunately his record as the starter was 1-10. Numbers do not tell the full story of that 2016 season. What he did during the games was not as nearly newsworthy as what he did before the games.
Six Years Later
It feels good to be back in 2022, all that time traveling probably made you realize how old you’re getting. Five seasons later and Colin Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job. He took a stand, fought the league, changed the culture, and had a very odd public workout that did not goes his way. Looking back on everything that has happened since he took the knee it’s very odd to still see him on the outs. Police brutality is still very much a thing, racial injustice is still happening, and systemic racism is alive and well.
These are the things that Kaepernick wanted to bring awareness to so to see ‘End Racism’ on the fields and helmets, social justice initiatives, and many more forward moving acts by the NFL it’s crazy that he is still unemployed.
All of that aside let’s talk football. In the time that Kaepernick has been out of work, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has racked up a whopping $210M in guaranteed money. Not to dunk on Cousins but with a 1-3 record in the playoffs the Vikings clearly aren’t getting their money’s worth.
He is in the finesse team hall of fame along with Sam Bradford, Brock Osweiler, Jared Goff, Nick Foles, and newly inducted member Carson Wentz. These are guys who could have been decent quarterbacks but instead took the money and finessed the team out of millions by being absolutely mediocre.
Is the talent still there? That remains to be seen but if he doesn’t get a shot then we will never know. The age argument was debunked after the Denver Broncos traded the farm for 33 year old Russel Wilson who is a year younger than Kaepernick.
Who Needs a Quarterback?
There has been a constant narrative that Colin Kaepernick doesn’t want to play football anymore. Does this look like somebody who does not want to play football at a high level again?
Seahawks wideout Tyler Lockett would respond to this tweet. You know who could use a quarterback? The Seattle Seahawks. Along with the Colts, Texans, Panthers, Steelers, and Saints. There’s even an opportunity for a reunion in San Fran if the 49ers trade Jimmy G. Trey Lance under Kaepernick for a year or two wouldn’t be bad. It’s time for these owners to get over themselves and give this man a shot.