Over the past several weeks, I’ve had about 801 conversations with NFL fans about Colin Kaepernick. The exchanges ultimately come down to this:
Person 1: I just don’t get it.
Me: Get what?
Person 1: What’s wrong with Colin Kaepernick.
Me: I don’t think anything’s wrong with Colin Kaepernick.
Person 1: Confused look.
Me: Equally confused look.
Here’s the thing: Nothing is wrong with Colin Kaepernick, just as nothing was wrong with Kevin Maas when he started seeing a steady diet of curveballs, and nothing was wrong with Jeremy Lin when teams began backing off and letting him brick outside jumpers, and nothing was wrong with Shane Spencer after his first few months as a Yankee and Bo Kimble after a few games as a Clipper and Tyrell Biggs after his first few fights. Nothing has to be wrong with you—from a mechanical standpoint, from a mental standpoint, from an approach standpoint—for opponents to have you figured out.
And that’s what’s truly “wrong” with Colin Kaepernick: Opponents have figured him out.
Back in 2012, when he burst on the scene, replaced Alex Smith and guided the 49ers to the Super Bowl, Kaepernick was a knuckler in the wind. Nobody knew how to handle his unique mixture of speed/arm strength/field vision. He was this blur of a quarterback—too fast for a conventional pass rush, too strong-armed to overload the line with blitzing linebackers and/or safeties. Teams used to facing the conventional Smith were suddenly hit with a Michael Vick/Craig Morton hybrid—and they were utterly baffled. Yes, Kaepernick played wonderfully. But opponents played tentatively, looking at the San Francisco quarterback as one would a strange spider on the ledge. What do I do with this thing?
Gradually, however, teams adjusted. They figured Kaepernick out. Little things. Tendencies. Make him throw on the run, and his accuracy withers. Has limited ability to pass across the field. Spotty vision. Crummy decision-making skills under duress. On and on and on. Before long, teams knew exactly how to play Colin Kaepernick, and Colin Kaepernick failed to change, react, adapt. He’s the same guy with the same moves, digging from the same hole, and it’s not working. At this point, the man Ron Jaworski predicted would become the greatest quarterback in NFL history looks a helluva lot like the second coming of Tony Eason. Not a good thing.
What’s the solution? Not sure there is one. All players are scouted; all teams do their homework. But, as of this moment, Colin Kaepernick doesn’t strike me as a guy willing to do what it takes to change and improve and morph. Which, I suppose, is fine. He’s financially comfortable (Beats By Dre put a lot of change in his pocket) and will always be given a second and third chance, based on athleticism alone.
But will he ever become what we all thought he’d become?
Did Steve Pisarkiewicz?