If you’ve watched a 49ers game in a sports bar this season, you’ve heard the chatter about quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“He doesn’t know how to read defenses.”
“He forces the ball to his primary receiver.”
“Why doesn’t he stay in the pocket?”
“Why doesn’t he ever take off and run any more?”
“They’ll never win a Super Bowl with him.”
That last one is a lofty standard for a quarterback who has started just 37 games in the NFL. But Kaepernick’s success coming into this season – 21-8, including 4-2 in the playoffs – created those expectations.
After last season, his first full one as a starter, Kaepernick was the toast of football. He passed for 3,197 yards and threw 21 touchdown passes against just eight interceptions. And he was exciting to watch, capable of making a big play with his arm or his feet.
Big things were expected this season.
Kaepernick hasn’t disappointed, at least statistically. He’s on pace to pass for 3,912 yards and 24 touchdowns and rush for another 548 yards. He’s also completing a career-high 64.2 percent of his passes, and his passer rating is 94.8 (coincidentally the same as the Chiefs’ Alex Smith).
But Kaepernick also has been sacked 27 times, and the 49ers are 21st in passing yards and 24th in points. And the offense has looked disjointed, especially in back-to-back losses to the Broncos and Rams.
If they lose to the Saints in New Orleans today (10 a.m., FOX40), they’ll be 4-5 and likely will need to win six of their final seven games to have a chance to make the playoffs.
So is Kaepernick one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks – as he was anointed after last season – or is he a guy who can’t read defenses or find his second, third or fourth options?
– Tom Couzens
What to do
NFL, Denver at Raiders, 1:05 p.m., O.co Coliseum: Derek Carr is playing as well as can be expected for a rookie, but it’s Denver’s quarterback who will make this worth watching.