Here is a link to my Monday column about the 49ers in Nashville. The full text of the article appears below.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There’s been plenty of hand wringing about Colin Kaepernick lately. And worrying. There’s also been a misperception.
Like this. After the 49ers beat the Titans 31-17 and Kaepernick played brilliantly, some writer from Nashville asked Jim Harbaugh about Kaepernick’s “recent problems.” Harbaugh didn’t even let the guy finish. “I’m not aware of those,” Harbaugh shot back, a look of moral indignation on his face. Have you ever noticed Harbaugh looks like the comic book Superman, minus the blue hair.
Well, unless Harbaugh has been residing under a rock, he must have heard the buzz. Two weeks ago, people were saying Terrelle Pryor is better than Kaepernick. Laughable now. People said the league had figured out Kaepernick. People said he can’t throw well from under center, needs to throw on the run. (I wrote that. Sue me.)
People said Harbaugh was afraid to let Kaepernick run, afraid to use the read-option thingamajig for fear of getting his quarterback slaughtered. Observers point out Kaepernick still does not see the entire field, does not go through his progressions like Joe Montana. And it is a plain, indisputable fact that, a while back in St. Louis, general manager Trent Baalke, who thought Kaepernick should have thrown to an open Vernon Davis instead of running levitated in the press box and shouted, “Throw the damn ball.”
It is important to point out that Harbaugh called the read-option against Tennessee, let Kaepernick run, invited him to run. Kaepernick ran for 68 yards on 11 carries. He averaged a ton more yards per carry than Frank Gore. He saved the 49ers.
“Save” is too strong. The 49ers were playing the Titans, after all. Let’s just say Kaepernick helped his team immensely by running, one time for a touchdown, sprinting to his left, his knees high, his legs pumping. Such a beautiful running style.
And he passed from under center and he passed on the run. He passed any way you want. And if he didn’t go through his progressions — I have no idea one way or another — I can only imagine how fantastic he’ll be when he does learn to go through his progressions.
When he ran, he took some shots. He’s a football player. What do you expect? But you’ll notice one thing. He never takes a full-on hit. He’s sliding or turning to the side or simply outrunning amazed defenders. He is a shot deflector. And that in itself is a talent. Talking of Kapernick taking big hits, Harbaugh said with a grin on his face, “You’ve got to catch him first.”
So, yes, this was Kaepernick’s game. He was the story of the game and the hero of the game and the star. He may have been in a slump. But he isn’t now. Repeat after me. “Goodbye, slump.”
Kaepernick has reached a point in his young career, a point Steve Young reached after a while. The 49ers never can be a big underdog — can’t be any kind of underdog — as long as Kaepernick wears their uniform. It doesn’t matter who is hurt. It doesn’t matter who is out.
Kaepernick has one wide legit receiver — Anquan Boldin. He can work with that. He has one legit running back — Frank Gore. He can work with that, too. One tight end — Vernon Davis. Workable. He has one thing that atones for all the Niners’ offensive deficiencies. He has himself. For a quarterback to be 5-2 with this little talent around him is unheard of. Kaepernick makes the 49ers’ offense better than it has a right to be.
After the game, I asked Harbaugh what thrills him about Kaepernick. Harbaugh sometimes limits his answers to a grunt. Not so on the subject of his quarterback. Harbaugh loves Kaepernick.
“I can tell you a lot of things,” Harbaugh said, preparing to be loquacious. “He’s has a wonderful competitive heart. He is very talented both from a physical standpoint and from a mental standpoint. He’s extremely smart, quick thinker, reacts to things. He can juggle many concepts in his mind, memorizes things extremely well. It’s a pretty long list.”
Before moving on, I need to explain one thing. I am writing about Kaepernick. But I am not quoting Kaepernick. Sure, I talked to him but he didn’t say much. Never does. There’s a technique in writing. If the guy won’t reveal himself you talk to people who know the guy. You get to the guy’s inside by going outside the guy.
Cue Boldin. What does he find thrilling about Kaepernick?
“Things break down, he has a knack for getting out of the pocket and making a play.”
I said Kaepernick has moments of brilliance.
Boldin said, “We see it on a daily basis. In practice we see it. It’s routine for us to see him do the things he does. He’s not your typical quarterback. He brings a completely different skill set than most guys.”
Cue Joe Staley: “I love how competitive he is. I just get fired up about that. He’s so talented running and passing. Tonight, I was teasing him on the sideline. I was like, ‘I’m glad you didn’t forget you got those legs.’ He was using his speed there. He was running around creating issues for them.”
“When you talked to Kaepernick about his legs, did it make him laugh?”
“He doesn’t laugh with us,” I said.
“He laughs with us,” Staley said. “He likes us.”
Laughter all around.
“I just had to get that one in,” Staley said grinning. “He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s always laughing, he’s real fun.”
What’s Kaerpernick like in the huddle
“He’s straightforward. He says what he needs to say. One of the things about him, he keeps you accountable. On the sideline he’ll come over to you and say you’re not playing up to where he expects you to play. But, also, it will work the same way with him. If he feels like on that drive he didn’t do his job, he’ll come over and tell you that. It’s not all about pointing fingers with him. He’s very accountable to himself and his teammates. He expects greatness out of all of us and he expects us to play to the same level.”
I don’t know any of this stuff about Kaepernick, the man. I have not met the man Staley portrays and knows. I know only Kaepernick the performer on the field.
Him I vouch for.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.