Posted August 14, 2013

Colin Kaepernick wants you to know: He’s smarter than you may think

NFC West, San Francisco 49ers, Uncategorized
There's a lot more to Colin Kaepernick's game than running around on the field. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

There’s a lot more to Colin Kaepernick’s game than running around on the field. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

It’s pretty clear: Colin Kaepernick is tired of the codes that sometimes surround the new age of lightning-fast running quarterbacks who bring a new level of passing acumen to that strain of player. Despite the fact that the second-year star out of Nevada nearly led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl win, there are those who would still have you believe that Kaepernick — and by association, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson — are (black) read-option guys with little in the way of “elite quarterback tools. “

The first and most ridiculous hit on Kaepernick came from David Whitley of The Sporting News, who lit into Kaepernick and his many tattoos last November, failing to realize that most of them contained variations of bible verses. More offensive in Whitley’s column was the insinuation that the tattoos on the bodies of Ben Roethlisberger and Alex Smith were somehow more “heroic.”

Yes, that’s the racial code you think it is, and Kaepernick — the adopted biracial son of Rick and Teresa Kaepernick — is now doing everything he possibly can to distance himself from that pejorative prejudice. In a recent interview with GQ, Kaepernick went out of his way to mention that, believe it or not, it takes a lot of intelligence and plain old hard work to succeed as a quarterback in the NFL.

“All my life I’ve had these flashbacks, these dreams, nightmares, daymares, like visions, where I relive certain plays,” he told Andrew Corsello. “Only the bad plays. I see them over and over, as if somebody’s rewinding a tape and forcing me to watch. Some of these are recent, but some of them go back to high school. Every time I relive these mistakes of mine, I’m also forced to ask, What could I have done different? What decisions could I have made? This stuff haunts me, but I like it, because it makes the game hard. And the more I study, the more comfortable I feel with what a defense is going to do.

“Sometimes, when things are going really well, I feel like I’ve already seen things—it’s the flashback feeling in a good way. Like I’m watching a rerun, because I’ve studied this defense and know what comes next. Now, that is a good feeling, when your mind is working fast because you’ve studied and you realize, I’ve seen this before.”

And then, Kaepernick made it as simple as he possibly could — this game isn’t so simple.

“I think the biggest part of my game that’s underestimated is the mental part of it,” he says. “Probably because it’s invisible. You can’t see the hours I put in. It is funny to me that because I can run, because I’m athletic, people tend to see that as my only asset. And that’s fine—I hope they continue to see it that way. Look, I won’t say that view is ‘racist.’ I will say it’s stereotypical. I’ve just heard it so many times before.”

In truth, it’s probably both. It’s just easier to watch Kaepernick run for 181 on 16 carries against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs and just assume that’s all he does. But this is the same guy who, in the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons the next week, was at his most efficient, completing 16 of 21 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. The Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens was his 10th NFL start. He threw 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions in his first regular season as a starter, and he’s played successfully for two of the most exacting coaches in football — Chris Ault at Nevada, and Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco. Each of those men have forgotten more about quarterback play than some other coaches will ever know, and they’ve each signed off on Kaepernick as their guy.

To put a finer point on it, here’s just some of what Harbaugh — who played quarterback in the NFL from 1987 through 2000 — had to say about his guy:

“He’s becoming very expert in the system. He’s the type of player that studies the game plan, studies the ready-list, studies our practice tape, opponent tape, and somebody that contributes to the game plan and formulates ideas, asks questions, knows what everybody on the offense is doing and getting very good at understanding defenses and what they’re trying to accomplish and what their adjustments are. Still evolving and looking for ways to get better in areas that he can continue to learn, so it’s not something that is finite. He continues to grow. But he’s always eager to learn, always eager to understand and eager to have input as well.”

Maybe that should be the end of it, but as long as Kaepernick feels the need to prove that he’s smart enough to do what he’s … well, already done, perhaps we haven’t come as far when looking at quarterbacks as we’d like to believe.

27 comments
ptbnl
ptbnl

Colin Kaepernick is in a difficult position.  Chosen by Harbaugh to be the one to take SF to the next level, he performed almost perfectly.  As if he had been doing this for years.  What does he do for an encore?  

In  a little way, it reminds me of Fernando Valenzuela when he came up with the Dodgers and had that great rookie season bur never really managed to go much beyond that.

But I am rooting for him.

Lazzy_Eye
Lazzy_Eye

I just can't wait for this dude CP7 to to shut all these phoney peeps up.. GO 49ERS!!

taylortsides
taylortsides

Pretty sure the reason people think Kaepernick is dumb doesn't have anything to do with his race, his tattoos, or the way he plays the game, 'cause I have one word for you: Kaepernicking. No one can make kissing their bicep a signature move and come out of it looking like an intelligent person.

snowbadger
snowbadger

Is it me, or is CK refuting a claim that was never made? If anyone has questioned CK's intelligence, I must have missed it. Just because one knuckle-dragging mouth-breather questioned CK's tattoos? In fact, I've not seen a single instance where the intelligence of RG3, Wilson or Kaepernick has been challenged (nor should it be...they are all well-spoken, very bright men).

I do have to say I think Doug makes a mistake by suggesting that David Whitley called Roethlisberger and Smith's tattoos "more heroic", and accompanied that with the requisite racism charge. As idiotic as Whitley's column was, he made no such insinuation. He only said he finds Roethlisberger's and Smith's tattoos more tolerable because they can't be seen when they are in uniform, while at the same time heaping praise on Cam Newton for not having ANY tattoos. Sorry Doug, that's not racial code, just a guy being fuddy-duddy stupid.

DreedleGeneral
DreedleGeneral

Nice column Doug, as a Kaepernick fan, it's been frustrating that people forget this guy was recruited by Ivy League schools out of high school, did great academically in college, and scored higher on his wonderlic test than Russell Wilson, who is often described as being more of a student of the game.  

Mike R
Mike R

You can't win in the NFL if you can't throw, so if you can run but can't throw, you're not going far. You can win if all you can do is throw, but you better be pretty good at it. Steve Young is a good example of a guy who threw really well, so people forget how he could run, and people don't acknowledge how good a runner Rodgers is because he can throw so much (no Kaepernick, but he's much more mobile than Manning/Brady). Ultimately, a plus level passer who is good enough at running that the defense has to worry about doing things like playing man defense, or assigning a QB spy (taking out a blitzer or a coverage option) makes it harder to defend his team. With the way the league is skewed in favour of offense, and passing in particular, where this gets hung up is when OC's see a guy who can run and start inserting plays to "take advantage of his running", where he just runs. Make them defend the runner while they're trying to stop the pass. I think Harbaugh knows that, and you won't see Kaep just flat out going on run plays too often this year, but he will probably run for 100 yards a few games just on scrambles when there is nothing open downfield.

Nati1975
Nati1975

Kap has just the right balance of run and pass. There is always risk in this game pocket passers like Brady and Peyton both have had serious injuries keeping them out an entire season. Kap has the arm and the legs, and most important the brains, triple threat. Take thatand an amazing team around him to makethe most of this by protecting him in pocket,or while on the run or to catch his passesor take hand offs and run off with it a recipe for success. To all the criticsyou wish your qb could run as well aspass.

Jean
Jean

The media wants 2 things: gay nfl players comin' out and a super black qb. These "new" super qb's don't last, something Always happens to short circuit their greatness.

speedk1lls
speedk1lls

All I know is the Rams were 3-1-1 against Kapernick, R. Wilson, & RG3. Heck easily could have been 5-0. Somehow I think if the Cowboys or Jets defenses had played that way against those QBs more people would talk about it. Wake up.... The Rams own the blueprint to beat these guys (and the athletic defense)

hhuntercali
hhuntercali

If Terry Bradshaw can win four rings there's your proof right there you don't need to be a college professor to play qb. Eli has two rings. how much running does he do. 

If you can run, great, that makes you tim tebow. It is a passing league, the read option is just another fad that is going to get some expensive players hurt.


rgiii destroyed his knee last year. I bet you a dollar here and now one of these new wunderkind qb's of the future running the option has a season ending injury this year.

Manzoa
Manzoa

When any of these guys you mention get a ring, send me a memo.  Until then they're a bunch of guys who had good first years...one good year.  Remember Cam Newton?

mystafugee
mystafugee

I don't even like Kaepernick but the tattoos issue was seriously one of the dumbest non-stories that became a big story since hearing about ARod's tipping habits.  

craig1
craig1

@taylortsidesNo one can make kissing their bicep a signature move and come out of it looking like an intelligent person.

 And no one does. I once saw him try to call a timeout in the 4th quarter against the Saints - problem was - no time outs.  Does that sound like a "smart guy" leading the team - nah. You will never see the elite QBs do that.  That the offensive leader would lose tract of such a fundamental piece of information was in word, astonishing. Maybe he is a Mensa candidate for all I know. I do know however that he has to improve in that area for sure lest he get these "must be/might be" dumb comments.

MattLlewellyn
MattLlewellyn

@snowbadger Many TV/Radio personalities have questioned the perception that Kap's tattoos give to others. It isn't a firm, "he has tattoos so he's not smart" statement, but many, including Steven A. Smith have gotten on national airwaves and commented on how they ddin't really like the tattoos and the taboos still associated with them. 

gary41
gary41

@DreedleGeneral I watched him during his college career, especially since that first Fresno State game.  Aside from other things, his speed in college was most surprising for a big guy--so electrifying--almost like players were just watching him go.  Recruiting??  He had just ONE offer, despite sending out packages of information & tapes to colleges.  He picked Nevada, because he had no other choices.  No PAC 12 or Ivy League schools responded.         

BrianVStreeter
BrianVStreeter

@speedk1lls They have also stuffed Brees pretty good in the past. They are an up and coming team, but I think SEA is going to be too tough to beat.

snowbadger
snowbadger

@speedk1lls "easily could have been 5-0"...keep dreaming! Your Rams were much closer to going 0-5 than 5-0. If you seriously want to suggest the Rams "blueprint" for beating QB's like Wilson, RG3 and Kaep is to give up 308 yards and 2 TD's to Wilson and 288 yards and 3 TD's to RG3, you need your head examined. Don't kid yourself, the only reason the Rams beat the Redskins was because the Redskins pass defense was one of the worst in the league last year.

BEATINGU
BEATINGU

Steve Young could run like his life depended on it and Kaep came within 5 yards and a blown call of winning a ring. These guys are the future of the NFL. Pocket passers like Peyton and Brady are on their way out. As far as Ryan, he took a backseat to Kaep last year and Stafford hasn't sniffed the playoffs. Rodgers and Bree's are the last two remaining gunslingers out there and we all saw what happened the last two times Rodgers met Kaep

KrisR22
KrisR22

@Manzoa Cam Newton posted a higher QB and QBR rating in his second year.  Explain to me how that's worse than his first year?

speedk1lls
speedk1lls

Why do pocket passers have to be on the way out? Every time a QB that can run emerges people say that. Randal Cunningham, Mike Vick now these guys. RW, CK, and RG3 are specially because they can throw from the pocket too. If they couldn't they wouldn't make it. They are special. Just understand that. Not just any athletic qb can do what hey do

hhuntercali
hhuntercali

@BEATINGU  go to wiki and look at the list of sb champs. you have to go all the way to 95 to find a qb who was a good runner. 


meet the new boss. same as the old boss.

hhuntercali
hhuntercali

@KrisR22 @Manzoa they went from 6-10 to 7-9.

not much improvement, especially the game he gave away to the falcons when he fumbled at the end. it's his decision making thats the problem, not his athleticism.


snowbadger
snowbadger

@speedk1lls exactly. Neither pocket passers, nor athletic qb's are going the way of the dinosaur anytime soon. And you're absolutely right that the new class of "athletic qb's" aren't running qb's, they are polished pocket passers who just happen to be able to run like the wind. There will always be pocket passers, but the ones in the future will be closer in style to Rodgers, Luck and Brees than Manning, Manning and Brady. And the "athletic qb's" will be closer in style to RW, CK and RG3 than Vick or Cunningham.

snowbadger
snowbadger

@hhuntercali @BEATINGU Sample size alone explains why pocket passers have won the last 17 SB's. Aside from Michael Vick and Steve McNair, what other good runners were PLAYING qb during that time? The next 10 years will tell the tale. Maybe nothing will change, maybe everything will change.

speedk1lls
speedk1lls

Oh please Cam Newton was a poor example period.