When Colin Kaepernick unseated Alex Smith as the starting quarterback for the 49ers back in 2012, there was little doubt that Harbaugh was making the right decision. Kaepernick was dominating the league with the new read option play, and no defense could stop it. Fast forward four years later, and he’s about to be unseated by Blaine Gabbart. So what went wrong?
The 49ers began the 2012 season off to a thunderous start. Alex Smith was in arguably his best season ever, until he got a concussion in Week 10. Kaepernick filled in very well, and began a quarterback controversy. Which top 10 quarterback would the 49ers start? Keap continued to get the starts even after Smith was healthy, due to a new style of offence the NFL had rarely seen before. This was the read option offence. This offence carried the 49ers to the super bowl, where they lost to a destiny Ravens team. But they looked better than ever for next year.
In the off-season, Smith got traded to the Chief’s for a second round pick.
The only issue for 2013 however, was that defenses knew what to against the read option. The red and gold could no longer run the ball as effectively, so they had to take to the air. And this was where the problems with Colin Kaepernick started to show. He couldn’t throw properly at all. Numerous times he would throw the ball too hard, and it would slip through receivers hands. He would telegraph where he was throwing to the defense, which made the receivers easy to cover. Based on passing alone, Keapernick was not as good as the world once thought. But the defense carried the 49ers the the NFC Championship game, losing to the Seahawks.
2014 saw the return of Kaepernick, now backed up by arguably the worst quarterback in Jacksonville history, Blaine Gabbart. With a new receiver in Anquan Boldin, alongside Frank Gore, Micheal Crabtree and Vernon Davis, Kaepernick was loaded with offensive weapons. The offensive line was stellar as well, and the defense was still continuing their dominance. Kaepernick then decided to regress a lot, and led a limping 49ers team to 8-8.
After the poor season, Jed York made a questionable decision, and fired coach Jim Harbaugh. Most of the team decided to leave as well, including Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, and Aldon Smith, leaving the 49ers roster a shell of what they once were.
And so 2015 hits, and the fate of the offence is squarely on Kaep. And he decides to play the worst football of his career. With no coaching, offensive line, or receivers to throw to, the 49ers could not move the ball. It didn’t help that every trick in Kaepernick’s arsenal was found out by the league. And with Kaepernick struggling in his easy to read offence, he was benched. For Blaine Gabbart. The worst quarterback in Jaguars history. And Gabbart played a lot better then Kaep ever did.
So what happened?
Kaepernick is, and always was, a gimmicky quarterback that relied on his legs and the read option. Once defenses learned to contain Kaep and make him throw, the fact that he couldn’t play quarterback was exposed. As he lost offensive weapons and the only coach that could make him work, Keap turned useless. He had to rely on his own mind, which led to a lot of poor decisions. He had to rely on his arm, which was too powerful and inaccurate. And he just didn’t care enough about getting better.
So now Kaepernick wants out of San Francisco, and is looking washed up and out of a starting job. And Alex Smith is leading the Chiefs to the playoffs, and is playing better than ever. Oh well.
By Graham Besse