From almost being a Super Bowl hero, to a quarterback who becomes a liability to his team. The San Francisco 49ers found themselves on strange ground after losing to the Carolina Panthers, being unable to trust the passing ability of their heralded quarterback, who might have allowed all of the compliments from the first game of the season get to his head.
Except for that win over the Green Bay Packers which was about Kaepernick proving to the world he has no problem staying in the pocket and being a more “classical” type of passer, things haven’t gone well for him. After picking up two consecutive losses to the Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts, Harbaugh decided it’s time to limit him just like he used to do with Alex Smith. An easy schedule led to five consecutive wins, but the moment the 49ers met a team that can physically overpower them, all the weaknesses and problems reappeared.
It was always going to be a tough year for Kaepernick – Not having Michael Crabtree from the get go really hurt him in preseason, but the performance against the Packers, having no problem leaning on Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis made it seem like Kaepernick can adjust. Vernon Davis was injured and came back, and is now injured again. Maybe that’s the whole X-Factor to this problem, but it’s not just one thing that is making a quarterback people talked about as the prototype for the future playmaker in the NFL look this bad.
He finished with 11-for-22 against the Panthers (a 10-9 loss), throwing for only 91 yards and an interception. The Panthers sacked him six times and put him on the ground a few more times, especially during the fourth quarter as he was trying to make something happen and find the first touchdown drive for the Niners in the game. He was limited to 2-of-9 and an interception during the fourth quarter, and even his scrambling ability didn’t come into play: Kaepernick did run 16 yards on 4 carries, but those were designed runs. He didn’t get to scramble once, or make a successful scramble at least, finishing with 0-for-4 when trying to throw from outside the pocket, that kept collapsing on him.
He was 0-for-6 on throws deeper than 10 yards downfield, including a game-ending interception; the first time in his career without a completed deep pass on several attempts in a game. The 49ers did have a lot of success, as usual, running the ball, but just like in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Kaepernick was forced to try and win the game for his team even though going to Frank Gore would have been a better choice.
So what does Harbaugh do now? Simply did deeper and run the ball like he’s back at Stanford or coaching Wisconsin? That’s not a way to win in the NFL, especially when there are teams that have a physical advantage of the 49ers, like their division rivals Seattle Seahawks, not to mention the Indianapolis Colts (who had a weird loss to the Rams), who can only meet the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
But with these kind of offensive problems, there’s not going to be any Super Bowl for a popular pick during the preseason to make it back. Colin Kaepernick was crowned too soon as the next Joe Montana or even being better than Alex Smith. It’s not saying he won’t be one day, but right now he just might be the most disappointing player this season.