In October 2013, Louis Riddick was interviewed in a story polling NFL personnel experts on whom they would choose as their starting quarterback: Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick.
Riddick, who met with the 49ers on Tuesday regarding their general manager’s job, went with the popular choice.
“With Colin, I think you get the intelligence and ability to handle volume as far as the amount you can put on him mentally,” he said in the ESPN story. “That gives you a lot of options week to week game plan-wse as well, with the difference being that he is willing to take more chances at pushing the ball vertically down the field, and not being so quick to simply take sacks or take off every time the read isn’t clean initially.
“There is no question the upside lies with Colin in terms of who has the higher ceiling, and with both given equal weapons/protection, Colin would be the more explosive player and the player I would choose.”
Two years later, Riddick had a decidedly more pessimistic take on Kaepernick.
“It looks like the decision making and accuracy on a consistent basis are not clicking,” he said in a USA Today story after Kaepernick threw four interceptions against Arizona in 2015.
“I’m starting to feel the same way about Colin as I do (Robert Griffin III),” he continued. “You never want that to be the case. The game against Arizona was terrible. I’m watching saying, ‘Colin, are you blind?’ ”
Riddick was asked if the 49ers should consider trading the quarterback after that performance.
“If I were in a front office, hell yeah, we’d be having internal discussions about possibly prying him out of there,” he said. “In a system where you could utilize him as a dual threat, definitely.”
Riddick made those comments as an analyst for ESPN, which pays him to be opinionated. The 47-year-old spent seven seasons as an NFL defensive back and 13 in Washington’s and Philadelphia’s personnel departments. He has said his directness is one reason he’s no longer in the league.
For the last four years, he has displayed that candor on television and radio podcasts, in newspaper stories and on Twitter, where he has posted more than 14,000 tweets.
His opinions and analyses are in the open, a contrast to the guarded and secretive world of NFL front offices.
Riddick’s insights usually have been astute.
In recent years, he has lauded New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, perhaps the 49ers’ top head-coaching candidate. Consequently, many observers have linked the two with the 49ers’ openings.
In March 2015, when Frank Gore entered free agency, Riddick said he thought the veteran running back, 31 at the time, still could be a top runner. He was right. This season, Gore rushed for 1,025 yards, ranking 12th in the league.
Some of his takes, however, will make long-suffering 49ers fans wince.
On Twitter, Riddick acknowledged he was “very high on” A.J. Jenkins when the wide receiver entered the 2012 draft and Riddick was in the Eagles’ personnel department. Jenkins, the 49ers’ first-round pick that year, easily was former general manager Trent Baalke’s biggest draft miss. Baalke traded Jenkins after just one year, and the receiver has been out of the NFL the last two years.
In 2014, Riddick tweeted that offensive linemen Marcus Martin and Brandon Thomas, third-round picks by the 49ers that year, were “two of my favorite OL’s acquired for great value due to positional versatility. … Future starters.”
Martin has started 24 games at guard and center the last three seasons, but he has struggled and lost his starting role this season. Thomas was recovering from an ACL injury when he was drafted, and last year, the 49ers trade him to Detroit, where he spent the season on the practice squad.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, is polarizing among 49ers fans, and he might not be on the team next season no matter who is hired as the general manager. But Kaepernick also is the team’s only quarterback under contract for 2017.
One of Riddick’s assertions will get no argument from unhappy fans. He said recently on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” that the 49ers’ roster needs a “massive overhaul” at “some very, very, very important positions.”
Twitter chronicles of Riddick
- “Devey and Pears. Not even close to being good enough to be dependable starters.” – Oct. 22, 2015
- Jaquiski “Tartt is a very intriguing blend of football IQ, competitiveness, athletic skill, & versatility. Makes a strong group even stronger.” – May 22, 2015
- “Very impressed by what #49ers are doing. Jimmie Ward the best, most versatile DB in this draft (along w/Kyle Fuller).” – May 10, 2014
- “as you know, was very high on (A.J.) Jenkins coming out in the ’12 draft as well, so will be following his development closely” – July 24, 2013
- “Ray Ray Armstrong continually showed up at LB for the #Rams. Favorite of mine during his early years with the #Canes” – Aug. 11, 2013