During his Wednesday interview with Murph and Mac on KNBR, Greg Cosell had this to say about Colin Kaepernick, "I think they learned that they can’t quite take all the training wheels off of Kaepernick yet. They’ve got to step back and let him develop at his own pace. He’s still started only 14 NFL games." Cosell hit the nail on the head.
Kaepernick took the NFL and Bay Area by storm in the second half of 2012. He seemingly made a highlight reel play each week, and along the way led the 49ers to their first Super Bowl berth since 1994.
The expectations for Kaepernick were high coming into 2013. On the opening weekend Kaepernick did not disappoint, torching the Green Bay Packers for 412 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a rating of 129.4. His performance was awesome. What followed was anything but.
Over the next 2 weeks Kaepernick struggled mightily, having the two worst performances of his career. In losses to Seattle and Indianapolis, Kaepernick completed only 47% of his passes for 277 yards with no touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
During those two losses the 49ers offense appeared to have gone away from its identity, a power run game with play action passes off of those. It was as if the 49ers coaches had been wowed by Kaepernick's performance as much as the outsiders were, and wanted to see their new toy shine. Unfortunately it wasn't ready.
Following the losses the 49ers faced a tough Thursday night game in St Louis against a team they were unable beat in two tries the previous season. Although his numbers were not off the charts, his overall performance was. Kaepernick's completion percentage jumped to 65.2% and he threw 2 touchdown passes, the second coming early in the third quarter to effectively put the game away.
During training camp ESPN created quite a stir in the Bay Area with their ranking of the current young quarterbacks. Included in that analysis was this from Trent Dilfer, "What the 49ers are doing with Kaepernick is brilliant," Dilfer said. "It's [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman. It's the pistol [offense] and the power run game. I've told Colin this already, but he's playing remedial football over there. He sees five coverages a game where Tom Brady sees five coverages in his first six snaps. All those guys who run the zone read are seeing about one-tenth of what defenses can throw at them." That is exactly what we saw from the 49ers against St Louis.
Against the Rams, Roman went back to the power run game and stuck with it. He was able to create matchups that allowed Kaepernick to get rid of the ball quickly, usually targeting his first or second read. Roman had gone back to what made the team successful in 2011, and early 2012. We saw easy throws off play action to Bruce Miller, and Vance McDonald. Quick easy throws to Anquan Boldin and Quinton Patton, and simple combo route reads, such as the out/corner combination on the touchdown throw to Davis.
With all of the fireworks we saw from Kaepernick in 2012 it was easy to forget that he would be starting only the 11th game of his career to start 2013. For now the 49ers offense appears to be best served to keep the training wheels on.