"I truly believe Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever."
SANTA CLARA Ever? The statement, delivered last month by the ESPN analyst and former Eagles quarterback, simply hits the ear wrong. Kaepernick's NFL resume, after all, amounts to 10 starts. He wasn't even the best quarterback in the most recent game he played. Baltimore's Joe Flacco finished with a 124.2 passer rating in the Super Bowl and was named the MVP.
Ever? Utter that phrase in Northern California, and you half expect pillars to shake, the sea to rise and toads to fall from the sky. Did Ron Jaworski forget that Joe Montana won four Super Bowls or that Steve Young won one, too. Even Jeff Garcia was voted to four Pro Bowls.
Ever? Even when limited to Kaepernick's generation of young-gun quarterbacks Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, et al. it's a bold statement. Kaepernick's counterpart on Sunday, the Packers' Aaron Rodgers, already has NFL and Super Bowl MVP awards, and he had the league's highest passer rating last year. And Rodgers isn't even 30.
And yet, and yet, and yet the longer you let your mind drift and the more you know about Kaepernick, the less absurd Jaworski's comment seems.
The formula for greatness has yet to be written, but one of the main ingredients is drive. It's what propels someone like Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice neither big nor particularly fast to find a steep, winding, five-mile horse trail in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains and make that a daily routine. Not only is Kaepernick physically gifted, he has the requisite intensity.
This is a guy who was drafted early in the second round a lifetime dream for 99.99 percent of college football players in 2011 but inwardly seethed that five quarterbacks were picked ahead of him. (The 49ers will face three of them Newton, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert this season. Only Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton escape the Colin Kaepernick Revenge Tour.)
A former colleague of Jim Harbaugh's once said the 49ers' coach is so competitive that when you walk beside him down the hallway, he tries to walk better than you.
The same can be said about Kaepernick. Except he would never walk.
When practice ends, Kaepernick runs from the practice field to the locker room. From there, he runs to the weight room. When that's done, he runs to the shower.
He's like Harrison Ford in "The Fugitive."
It's been that way from the start.
At 8 years old, Kaepernick would challenge adults to a game of Uno and then skip, skip, reverse demoralize them with a string of decisive defeats. Uno!
In the pool, Colin and older brother Kyle, 10 years his senior, would compete to see how long they could hold their breath underwater. Eventually, their parents had to peer over the edge of the still and silent pool to see if anyone needed saving.
One of the greatest? Ever?
For that to happen, a player also would have to have the right stage.
Kaepernick may not have liked his draft status, but it paired him with quarterback whisperer Harbaugh and other hyper-competitive guys like owner Jed York, chief operating officer Paraag Marathe, general manager Trent Baalke, linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive lineman Justin Smith. The franchise has climbed back from a decade-long descent and shows no signs of backsliding.
Kaepernick will play Wilson in September, Houston defensive end J.J. Watt in October and Griffin in November, all on national TV. There's a good chance he still will be on TV in January and perhaps February. He has something he never had at Nevada a national spotlight.
And in division rival Seattle, with Wilson and coach Pete Carroll, he has the perfect foil, one who will intensify and frame all that attention.
"Greatest" is a powerful word, and "ever" is an awfully long time.
One of the greatest ever? Jaworski's crazy.
Read Matthew Barrows' blogs at www.sacbee.com/ sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.