Link to my Thursday column. Text below:
Repeat after me.
Colin Kaepernick is an illusion. He’s also a mirage and a pleasant dream that vanishes when you wake up. He’s all smoke and mirrors and special effects. No reality. No substance.
I’m not talking about him as a person. I’m talking about him as a quarterback. The greatest quarterback illusion in the NFL.
I was on TV the other night. It was after Jed York’s news conference. They had a bunch of us at a table — we looked like Wolf Blitzer and Company talking about world affairs. We were talking about 49ers affairs — confusing in their own right.
The conversation got around to Kaepernick. Will he stay or will he go? One person on the panel — someone I like and respect — said Kaepernick is attractive because he’s such a great athlete. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist. That’s always the Kaepernick gist.
Great athlete. As if that means anything.
If he’s such a great athlete let him take up decathlon. Or synchronized swimming. Oh, I have a better idea — rugby in Australia. The idea that his athleticism is valuable to the 49ers is the grand illusion.
I don’t consider Carson Palmer a great athlete. Moves with the speed of a turtle. Or is it an Amana freezer? Not nearly the athlete Kaepernick is. Can’t kiss his bicep — probably doesn’t have a bicep to kiss. But Palmer is a better quarterback by far. Not even close. Not even a discussion.
Same goes for Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Derek Carr and many more. Kaepernick’s a better athlete than all of them. So what? Who cares? Give me those guys over Kaepernick every Sunday. Every day of the week.
Here are Kaepernick’s quarterback liabilities. I’ll make this quick because you already know them. He can’t read defenses. After all this time, he’s still on the Dick and Jane level. See receiver. Throw ball. He needs to be at the James Joyce’s “Ulysses” level. Is he stupid? No. He’s just not a good reader of defenses. Or, get this, maybe he doesn’t practice his reading.
He loses his cool under pressure. Takes a sack or takes off running. Kills the play. I saw the Niners play Cleveland — lose to Cleveland — and Johnny Manziel had more pocket presence than Kaepernick ever had. Johnny Manziel for heaven’s sake.
Kaepernick is not a pocket passer — certainly not good enough. An NFL quarterback needs to be a pocket passer. It always comes down to that. Steve Young was nobody until he stopped running and stood there and threw the ball. Kaepernick is no kid anymore. Too late for him to learn. That express train left the station.
OK, enough about his deficiencies.
This is why he’s relevant today, relevant going forward. The other day, reporters asked general manager Trent Baalke about Kaepernick, about his various injuries — thumb, shoulder. Baalke had this to say: “I’m more worried about getting him healthy and getting him ready for the offseason program.”
God help the 49ers.
Either Baalke is clueless — a clear and present danger — or he’s fibbing. The Niners want Kaepernick for the offseason program? Why? Kaepernick got benched, couldn’t hold off the tepid challenge of Blaine Gabbert. Baalke, who seems to harbor many illusions, may also harbor the Kaepernick-is-a-great-athlete illusion and he can be saved.
It says here Kaepernick is a coach killer. A team killer. If the new coach comes in and says Kaepernick is a great athlete and he (the coach) wants to keep Kaepernick and rehabilitate Kaepernick or even build the offense around him, that coach is the wrong coach. He is deluded and deceived. He’s fallen prey to the Kaepernick illusion. Poor man.
Listen to what Kaepernick told reporters when asked about his future with the team. “I’m under contract. I’m a 49er. I’m doing everything I can to make sure I’m prepared for next season.”
When reporters pressed him on the issue — we tend to press — he repeated robot-like, “Once again, I’m under contract here. I’m doing everything I can to make sure I’m prepared for next season. Everything I can do to help this team win.”
What didn’t he say?
He didn’t say, “I want to be a 49er.” He didn’t say, “I long to return.” He didn’t say, “I love this team and I love my teammates.” Nothing like that.
He was coy and cool and, if you read between the lines, he’s allowing for the possibility he’s history with the Niners. He wants to be history — you sure could read his words that way. You can’t blame him for wanting out. The Niners are in turmoil. Not a good situation for him. He’ll have to compete with Gabbert and maybe a free agent and maybe a rookie for the starting job. What a comedown. And the Niners did bench him.
The situation between the 49ers and Kaepernick is tricky. If he is healthy on April 1, the 49ers are in the driver’s seat. They can cut him, trade him, restructure his contract. But if he’s not healthy on April 1, the Niners are in for the next season of the contract — $11.9 million. The 49ers would have to live with paying that or try to reach a settlement with him.
My guess is Kaepernick desperately wants out. That’s why he had shoulder and thumb surgery so quickly. It is in his interest to go elsewhere. He and the 49ers should get a divorce. A quickie divorce. A no-fault divorce. They don’t want him with all his injuries and his quarterback deficiencies. And he’s clearly fallen out of love with them.
This should be the end of Colin Kaepernick around here. Get rid of the Grand Illusion by any means available.
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.