Here is a link to my Thursday column about Colin Kaepernick’s whopper contract. The full column runs below:
SANTA CLARA — The Pampers are off Colin Kaepernick.
I’m not saying he wears Pampers. But until now, he was perceived as a beginner quarterback, a learning quarterback, and most of all, a baby quarterback. Forget all that.
When a 26-year-old guy signs a six-year contract worth as much as $126 million, when a guy gets $61 million guaranteed, he no longer is a baby. He’s a grown man with grown-man expectations. Like being good enough to win a Super Bowl. Like being compared to Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Grown-up stuff. Serious stuff. No room for excuses. At up to 21 big ones per annum, no one gets the benefit of an excuse — certainly not the inexperience excuse.
The Pampers are off Colin Kaepernick. He signed his megadeal on Wednesday, the most guaranteed money ever in the NFL. And now his life has changed forever. When a man gets that kind of dough, you expect his performance to improve. You expect him to do better at benchmark numbers.
Take completion percentage. Kaepernick’s career completion percentage is 59.8. No big deal. His completion percentage last season was 58.4. That ranked 31st of 37 quarterbacks. That’s bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. Philip Rivers led the league in completion percentage at 69.5. Kaepernick needs to do better.
More on completion percentage. Joe Montana’s best completion percentage was 70.2 in 1989. Steve Young’s was 70.3 in 1994. Kaepernick needs to achieve those numbers.
And, yes, it’s fair to compare Kaepernick to Montana and Young. Remember, he’s not a baby anymore. At the beginning of last season, I asked Jim Harbaugh to compare Kaepernick to Montana and Young. He politely ducked the question saying Kaepernick was inexperienced and still learning. That was a fair answer then. It isn’t now. Harbaugh and Kaepernick no longer can duck the comparison to Montana and Young. The comparison hangs over the team.
Let’s judge Kaepernick by other benchmarks like touchdown passes. He threw 21 last season. That ranked 17th in the league, strictly middle of the road. Kaepernick needs to do better.
He needs to be a better pocket passer. He needs to see the field better. He needs to get sacked less — he took the 11th most sacks in the league last season, unexpected in a running quarterback. He needs to play better in the red zone. He needs to make quicker decisions.
It may seem unfair to point out these “needs” so soon after his big day. He’s not a baby anymore. He’s a man. We judge him by man standards. We don’t worry about hurt feelings. And we praise him where praise is warranted. He finished last season No. 10 in passer rating at 91.6. Nice going.
We ask a serious question. How many read-option plays will Harbaugh call, plays that expose his quarterback to danger? It’s one thing to have a $1 million quarterback running all over the place with linebackers trying to murder him. It’s quite another to put a $21 million man in harm’s way. Will the Niners’ offense change?
We raise other grownup issues. Kaepernick appeared alone at his news conference announcing the contract, stood behind a lectern and answered questions from the media. He handled himself well and was able to answer all the questions. He answered in a good spirit and with a lovely smile.
But this was an important news conference, an epoch-making news conference. It declared Kaepernick is the future of the franchise. It declared Kaerpernick is not only a man — he is The Man.
Jed York should have been there. He should have acknowledged the seriousness of the contract, of the statement by the franchise. He should have vouched for his guy. He should have been there to praise Kaerpernick and explain why the team feels this deal is appropriate. He should have stood next to Kaepernick in joy.
Trent Baalke and Harbaugh also were no-shows. Very strange. This was a day for and about the franchise, but the franchise didn’t treat it like that. The 49ers barely gave the media time to show up. They announced the news conference an hour in advance. I drove like mad from Oakland and just made it in time. Several beat writers didn’t even cover the news conference. I assume a few didn’t get enough notice.
It’s like the Niners wanted to get as little press coverage as possible for this momentous occasion, wanted to slip this thing past the media. Why? If York and the others are proud of what they did, they should act proud. They should act grown up.
Kaepernick has ascended to the Montana-Young level in terms of his importance to the team.
He no longer is that aw-shucks, gosh-oh-gee kid with a boyish grin and minimalist language who wears his baseball cap backward like a kid. Well, he shouldn’t be. He is getting paid like a grown man to be a grown man and to do grown-man things.
But really this column isn’t about Kaepernick. It’s about us. We need to stop thinking of him as a young quarterback who still needs to develop. That’s over with. He needs to deliver. We need to change how we talk about Colin Kaepernick.
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