Kurt Warner has never done photo shoots for Abs Monthly. His 40-yard dash and vertical jump are listed as “unknown” because he never was invited to the scouting combine or any college all-star games when he was coming out of the University of Northern Iowa.
He played most of his NFL career with more than a dash of gray in his beard. During his final seven seasons, his combined rushing total was 84 yards, six fewer than the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick gained on a touchdown run Dec. 20 against the San Diego Chargers.
There were a lot of things that drew Kaepernick, who had his pick of quarterback mentors this offseason, to Warner, the former St.Louis Rams, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals passer who retired after the 2009 season.
Warner was a two-time league MVP, he’s a man of faith – Kaepernick’s tattoos are mostly verses from the Bible – and he toiled for everything he achieved, working his way up from stocking shelves at the local Hy-Vee grocer in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and winning Super Bowl MVP in 2000.
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The practical reason for choosing Warner, however, is that to elevate his game Kaepernick must learn how to operate better out of the pocket.
During his own career, Warner had no choice but to stay in the pocket. He didn’t have Kaepernick’s athleticism and was forced to throw and think his way out of jams, something he accomplished with accuracy and touch to the tune of 32,344 career passing yards.
Which is a long way of saying Kaepernick and Warner are a good match because one’s strengths are the other’s weakness.
“Kurt’s role is paramount,” said another former quarterback, Trent Dilfer, who along with Steve Young may also visit with Kaepernick at times this winter at EXOS performance center in Phoenix.
“Because Kurt is such a football guy, he’s an X’s, O’s guy,” Dilfer continued. “And he’s familiar with chasing greatness, which is what Colin’s doing.”
Warner won’t be on hand every day. But he’ll meet with Kaepernick a few times a week, starting next week, to meticulously go over film, chart plays on a white board and discuss the mental aspects of the game. The next day, Kaepernick will head out to the practice field to apply what he’s learned.
Kaepernick, whose white Jaguar sedan typically is the first car in the players’ parking lot each morning, always has trained hard during the offseason. After his first stint as the 49ers’ starter, he worked out with track athletes in Atlanta. Last year, he trained at Bommarito Performance Systems – running back Frank Gore’s offseason stomping ground – in Miami.
What he hasn’t had is the intense, quarterback-specific education he will receive this winter. He’ll work on what quarterback experts call his “platform” – the way he stands in the pocket, which should help him slide forward, backward and to the side away from pressure while still keeping his eyes downfield.
Biomechanics experts will help him tighten his delivery and clean up his footwork.
That type of QB scrutiny is becoming all the rage in the NFL.
It used to be that an NFL offseason began with an eight-week “quarterback school.” The new collective bargaining agreement, however, condensed that time frame, which has sent NFL quarterbacks looking for people to help them to tweak, sharpen and troubleshoot their skills.
Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Joe Flacco, for example, head to Southern California to work with Tom House, a former relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves who has found a cottage industry analyzing some of the best passers in football.
Kaepernick is heading to the Arizona desert in an effort to reach Brees’, Brady’s and Flacco’s level.
“That tells me Colin is hungry,” Dilfer said. “He’s not going to the Bahamas for a three-week vacation. He’s not playing golf every day. This a huge thing for him because it really speaks to him wanting to get better.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.