Here is a link to my Sunday column. The full text runs below:
The high point of Thursday’s exhibition game was Jim Tomsula’s postgame press conference.
Nothing particular had happened in the alleged game and now Tomsula was in the big new auditorium, like a college lecture hall, including those oversized arms on the chairs that raise up like desks for taking notes or exams. One reporter asked why quarterback Colin Kaepernick had not played a single snap. Kaepernick had, in fact, roamed the sideline all night wearing a baseball cap and grinning like the owner of a Central Valley Subaru dealership who had been invited to meet and greet and hang out with the players.
On the other hand, undrafted quarterback Dylan Thompson played the entire game for the 49ers, getting in lots of good reps. The 49ers released him Saturday morning.
Back to Tomsula’s postgame news conference on Thursday. He thought about the question, about why Kaepernick didn’t play at all. He said Kaepernick had a full practice on Wednesday and also would have a full practice on Friday and he — the coach — didn’t want the game to get in the way of those practices.
“We need the practice time instead of going out there (in Thursday’s game) and taking yesterday off and doing a walk-through setting and then coming into this for five or six plays.” It may not be possible entirely to follow the logic of that statement. Call it Tomsula Talk. But you get the general idea. Kaepernick really needed the practice time. Tomsula said all this stuff with a straight face, like a man pronouncing the profound truth. People took notes on the big chair arms.
And Tomsula’s answer was a good answer, a plausible answer except for this. Practice isn’t like a game. Not at all. In practice the players don’t hit each other or knock each other down or rush the quarterback to hurt and hinder him. Football practice is like boxing without landing punches.
And that means Kaepernick, who’s had his struggles throwing the ball under pressure, didn’t get to work on game skills — spotting a receiver or several receivers and letting go of the ball while the opponent tries to sack him or blitz him or tries other unpleasant maneuvers, from his point of view.
Is this a way to prepare a quarterback for the season?
Tomsula said he didn’t want to risk injury to Kaepernick or other key players. Injury is an important consideration, especially in exhibition game No. 4, the dullest of the dull. But being prepared also is a consideration. If Tomsula and his staff had gotten Kaepernick ready in the first three games, that would have taken care of the issue, made the fourth game null and void. But Tomsula and his staff did not get Kaepernick ready.
He completed five passes in the preseason. He attempted 13 passes. Did he even break a sweat? The first team offense under his direction scored no touchdowns. In the entire preseason. Hey, maybe he practiced like a maniac on non-game day. Nevertheless.
Other teams use the preseason to get their offenses ready. Take Green Bay. Pretty good offense. Pretty good quarterback. Aaron Rodgers led an 80-yard touchdown drive against the Steelers just to keep sharp and prepared. I’m just saying.
But maybe the Niners offense is better than the Packers offense. And maybe Colin Kaepernick is better than Aaron Rodgers. I’m just saying.
Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst are treating their offense like it’s totally established, one of the elite offenses. Like it doesn’t need any work. Like it requires just a little dusting and buffing and it’s ready to go. Like Kaepernick has been to multiple Pro Bowls instead of the none he’s played in.
Like the most important thing is to keep players healthy. Like the passing combination of Kaepernick to new Niner Torrey Smith is an established fact — the second coming of Joe Montana to Jerry Rice. Like the screen-pass combination of Kaepernick to Reggie Bush is an equally established fact. Like Kaepernick already proved he has the required touch for short passes, which the new and revised offense apparently will feature.
Tomsula, who may be a good coach and a nice man — we’ll know soon enough — is treating the preseason, at least on offense, as if the one and only goal is not to get players hurt. And that’s a fine and worthwhile goal. But preseason is about more than not getting hurt. It’s about getting ready for the regular season, you know, getting ready for the games that count.
Coaches are supposed to use preseason, as awful and boring as it is, to prepare for the regular season. Not Tomsula, who may have strange and amazing ways we’re only just learning about. He got an Incomplete on the preseason — certainly where the offense is concerned.
He apparently intends to use the regular season to get ready for the regular season. It is an unusual strategy, to say the least, and makes you wonder if the Niners offense will be up to game speed and game technique when the Vikings invade Levi’s Stadium late on Monday night, Sept. 14.
Make no mistake. The 49ers’ first-string offense showed nothing in the preseason. You might draw the conclusion Tomsula is leaving things to chance and prayer. Or maybe the 49ers offense will surprise and operate like a machine.
One thing we do know for sure — with the regular season a week and a half away, Colin Kaepernick is healthy as a horse and fit as a fiddle. All that good stuff.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.