Kaepernick departure the right call for 49ers


Graphic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Erik Khan,
Staff Writer

In 2013, I condemned the 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh for his decision to bench the game manager-type quarterback he had in Alex Smith, for the run-and-gun style quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick proved my assumption to be foolish when the 49ers hosted the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs that year, and he set the NFL single-game record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. He led the 49ers to Super Bowl 47 two weeks later, falling just five yards short of bringing the 49ers their sixth Lombardi trophy. 

Fast forward to Nov. 1 of last season, when the San Francisco 49ers traveled to St. Louis to take on the Rams; the player who rushed for 181 yards in that 2013 playoff game was nowhere to be found. There were roughly five minutes left in the first quarter, and the 49ers had the ball on the Rams’ one-yard line, needing to travel 99 yards to score a touchdown. In a highly criticized move, Kaepernick handed the ball to running back Mike Davis and failed to notice unguarded wide receiver Torrey Smith, who could have scored a touchdown without being touched by the defense. The 49ers went on to lose the game 27-6.

These two instances show the rise and fall of Kaepernick during his time as the 49ers quarterback and lead to one conclusion: by trading Kaepernick to the Denver Broncos, the 49ers made the right decision to move on from their 2011 second round draft pick.

According to sports writer Adam Schefter, the 49ers have already agreed to trade quarterback Colin Kaepernick to the Denver Broncos under the condition that Kaepernick restructures his $11.9 million salary for the 2016 season. The Cleveland Browns were also interested in trading for Kaepernick, but signed former Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.

After winning Super Bowl 50, the Broncos have a need for a quarterback after starting quarterback Peyton Manning’s retirement. His supposed successor, Brock Osweiler, who was Manning’s backup for four seasons, left the Broncos and signed a four-year, $72 million contract with the Houston Texans this offseason.

Why would the Broncos or any team want to take a chance on Kaepernick? I mean, he was benched following the Nov. 1 loss to the Rams for Blaine Gabbert, a quarterback that held a 5-22 NFL Record at the time.

The reason is that teams are confident that Kaepernick still has plenty left in the tank. They believe that given the right circumstances, Kaepernick could fulfill senior ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski’s 2013 claim that his skill set could allow him to be one of the best quarterbacks ever.

In 2012, and even 2013 when Kaepernick led the 49ers to a near NFC championship game victory, Kaepernick’s play seemed to warrant Jaworski’s claim. However, in the past two seasons, his statistics have told a much different story: he threw fewer touchdowns and more interceptions.

What sticks out the most to me is the fact that in 2014, Kaepernick was sacked 52 times — the second most in the NFL. In 2015, he was sacked 28 times in just eight games. What happened to the elusive quarterback who could evade defenders and turn a potential sack into a big rushing gain?

While it is true that this high sack total can be equated to a decline in play of the offensive line, it is also a result of Kaepernick not being as comfortable in his role as he was in his first two years. This can be chalked up to the 2014 rumors that his biggest believer, Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, was going to be gone as head coach in 2015.

Harbaugh ultimately made the call to start Kaepernick over Smith back in 2012, and the knowledge of his inevitable departure severely affected Kaepernick’s confidence. Other media stories, such as the flak he received for wearing a Miami Dolphins hat in the 2014 offseason and his teammate’s displeasure over his “Beats” headphones proved to be a distraction as well.

These aren’t excuses for Kaepernick. He sucked the past two years. He constantly failed to progress through his reads and overthrew open receivers when he did find them. He also didn’t run the ball nearly as effectively as he did in the past, which is what makes him so special.

This trade will prove to be the best-case scenario for both parties. Kaepernick has the potential to thrive playing behind the league’s best defense in Denver. The 49ers can now draft their quarterback of the future with the 7th overall pick and not worry about the media circus that Kaepernick brings.

There’s no denying that Kaepernick was an absolute game changer for the 49ers during his time there. There’s also no denying that the NFL changes very fast, and the 49ers learned that the hard way. The 49ers made the right decision to move forward with their rebuild, and this decision will benefit both teams.