Here is a link to my Tuesday column about Colin Kaepernick. The full text runs below:
When Jim Tomsula climbed onto the stage for his Monday post mortem — an apt phrase in this case — I immediately asked, “Why is Colin Kaepernick still your starting quarterback?”
It was an urgent question considering Kaepernick’s four-interception game in Arizona, two of those interceptions of the pick-six variety, considering he threw for only 67 yards in four quarters and had a passer rating of freaking 16.7. Better quarterbacks than Kaepernick have been benched for such monstrosities.
“I believe in Colin Kaepernick,” Tomsula said in a thick voice. “I think he’s got the tools to be a darned good quarterback in this football league.”
“Is he currently a good quarterback?” I asked, thinking he is not currently a good quarterback. When the game still was sort of a game a week earlier against the Steelers, Kaepernick threw for 61 yards in the first half.
“(Sunday), we weren’t a good team,” Tomsula said, easing the prime culprit out of the discussion. “(Sunday), none of us were very good.”
“Does that mean, no matter what, he’s your starting quarterback,” someone else asked?
“Yes, he’s our starting quarterback. OK. But we’re in the game of football. OK. I mean infinity and statements to that term in any position. But I’ve had no thoughts of him not being the quarterback. He’s our quarterback.”
Let’s pause here a moment. Think of deciphering a bunch of Tomsula’s words as wandering through a verbal maze. You need to catch your breath and figure out where you are in the paragraph, if there actually is a paragraph. I love deciphering Tomsula.
Tomsula said Kaepernick has the tools to be a good quarterback. I call this the Kaepernick Trap. You can call it the Kaepernick Illusion. Kaepernick does have all the tools. All the physical tools. He has a perfect physique along with arm strength and the ability to run fast and be elusive in the open field. I almost wrote to be elusive in “space,” but I never have seen a football player running near Neptune or Mercury.
He fools coaches with these tools, coaches who think they can mold those tools into a cohesive quarterback. He’s currently fooling Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst. Despite various tutors including Jim Harbaugh, Chryst, Kurt Warner and George Whitfield — am I missing someone? — Kaepernick has failed to master the nuances of playing quarterback, a position defined by nuances.
His anticipation is poor. His process of deciding where to throw the ball is slow. He is a quarterback who must have confirmation a receiver is open before he throws. He does not plan ahead and throw to an open spot. He lacks faith ball and receiver will meet at the appointed place. He is late. At least two of his picks against Arizona resulted from waiting too long, from lack of faith. It is very bad when a quarterback lacks faith.
Tomsula also said Kaerpernick can “be” a very good quarterback. Means to me he isn’t one yet. Means to me he’s in his fifth season and he turns 28 in a month and his development phase should be over, probably is. Sorry, Colin.
In terms of the mental side of football, in terms of reading defenses and knowing where to throw and when to throw — all the Joe Montana stuff — Kaepernick has not progressed an inch since his first day on the team. He is a collection of tools without a directing consciousness.
Oh, one other thing. For some reason, Tomsula spoke about infinity, a fascinating concept. Like when you imagine time never beginning or ending and your head hurts. What in the world did Tomsula mean when he spoke about infinity? I have no idea, but I’m open-minded. Tomsula makes me think in new and different ways.
If you are sufficiently rested, here is another Tomsula word chunk. Someone asked about Kaepernick’s development as a pocket passer — there’s been zero development.
“In terms of Colin reading and working at things and studying, I think he’s doing a nice job there,” Tomsula said there. “Working at it. OK. In terms of us as a whole offense, our drop-back pass game, we need to be better at it.”
What I get from Tomsula is Kaepernick works hard at pocket passing. OK. But hard work is not the point. Hard work never is the point. Coaches should be fined who talk about hard work. This is pro ball. Everyone works hard. How does a hard-working player do on the field? It’s the only relevant question. How did Kaepernick do in Arizona? He lost the game for the 49ers.
Take Kaepernick’s fourth interception. Looked at a certain way, it was a beauty of the pick genre. It was the first play of the Niners’ first drive of the second half, a long pass downfield to Torrey Smith. Kaepernick had time. Unfortunately, he spent all that time staring directly at Smith, alerting the whole stadium to his plan.
Still, the Cardinals defense did not put pressure on Kaepernick. He is supposed to be a good long thrower. He threw it long all right. To the other guys. And that was a designed play — the Niners had come up with it during halftime. You can’t blame that horror on the 49ers offensive line. Blame Kaepernick.
Leading up to the Arizona game, Kaepernick said he felt more comfortable in the new 49ers offense — you wonder how badly he would have played if he felt uncomfortable. He said he’s not being asked to do things out of his character this season. That was a shot at Harbaugh even though Kaepernick pretended it wasn’t. It meant Harbaugh asked Kaepernick to do things that made him uncomfortable and were out of character.
That’s just plain wrong. Kaepernick never had a four-pick game under Harbaugh. Why? Because Harbaugh protected Kaepernick from himself, made it so Kaepernick didn’t have to heave the ball in panic. Made things easy for him.
Offensive coordinator Chryst needs to give Kaepernick easy, safe, low-risk passes, needs to relieve Kaepernick of the responsibility of reading the whole field. Cut the field in half, just the right side. Chryst needs to build up Kaepernick’s confidence which is in the gutter.
If the Niners do all that for Kaepernick and if Kaepernick still freaks and loses games, they should fire him.
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