By Brian Jones
It’s rare a to see a player of Colin Kaepernick‘s skill set have a fall from grace as big as the one Kaepernick has. The man who was once considered the future of the San Francisco franchise, if not the NFL, is possibly on the verge of becoming an afterthought in the Bay Area.
Following a trip to Super Bowl XLVII, two consecutive NFC Championship appearances and a 17-6 record compiled as a starter, Kaepernick was the toast of the NFL in many circles and was rewarded with a six-year, $114-million-dollar contract. Since then, however, things have not gone well. He’s only gone 14-16 with no playoff appearances and is now locked in a quarterback competition with former top 10 pick Blaine Gabbert. How did someone with this much natural ability and skill, get himself in this situation?
A change in offensive philosophy could be to blame (he was also injured last season as well). When he first named starter, former head coach Jim Harbaugh gave him certain freedoms within the offense that utilized and maximized Kaepernick’s athleticism, but protected him by not exposing his weaknesses and shortcomings as a quarterback. Over the last season and a half Kaepernick has regressed. His accuracy has been off, his completion percentage has leveled off and his run production, a main tool in Kaepernick’s arsenal, has severely dropped off as well. As defenses around the league have adjusted to defending Kaepernick he has tried to become more of a pocket passer. With new head coach Chip Kelly, he will need to rediscover what made him one of the most feared threats in football.
He will get a chance to do that in Kelly’s offense, but the question now facing Kaepernick is how much of an opportunity he’ll get. Gabbert filled in late last season and did well enough for Kelly to declare that both players will get 100% equal reps in practice and in preseason games as well. Kaepernick will need to make the most of his time under center to win the job and then go out and perform this season. Should Gabbert beat him out as a starter this season Kaepernick may not only be done in San Francisco, but possibly as a productive player in the NFL. The pressure is on Kaepernick to step up, perform and silence his critics. This may, quite possibly, be his last chance to do so.