Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Forced to choose between top young QBs
By Mike Sando
Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers deserve applause for executing an in-season quarterback change expertly in 2012.
The coaching staff tailored its offense to Kaepernick's strengths. Kaepernick responded by playing a leading role in the team's 7-3 record to close the season, counting playoffs and Super Bowl. He was sometimes the best player on the field, even in games featuring top quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers.
In fact, Kaepernick finished that 10-start period (Weeks 11-21, including a playoff bye for the 49ers) with the NFL's second-best Total QBR score (81.2). Only the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson (81.7) ranked higher over that span, which leads naturally into the latest item involving these two young quarterbacks.
Kaepernick or Wilson? "Yes" might be the best answer, but it wasn't an option when ESPN analysts discussed them most recently. Hugh Douglas offered specific thoughts regarding both quarterbacks and explained in the video atop this item why he gave Wilson the edge right now.
"It looks like he is doing a really good job reading the defenses right now," Douglas said of Wilson. "On the flip side, with Colin Kaepernick, in that Super Bowl, you saw what he is going to see all year long. Teams are going to hit him. The Baltimore Ravens had a great game plan. They made him hold onto the ball and play quarterback. He had a little bit of problem with that. I'm not saying he's not going to be a good quarterback, but when he couldn't run that read option like he wanted to and he had to actually go through his progression and find the open receiver, he had a little bit of a problem doing that. So, I say right now, Russell Wilson is more in line to take that next step."
It's helpful to step back and emphasize, again, that we're analyzing and projecting based on relatively few starts. Kaepernick owns 10 of them. We should expect him to develop in the areas Douglas referenced. It's reasonable to say Wilson is more polished than Kaepernick right now while noting that Kaepernick should close the gap some as he gains additional experience. Also, Kaepernick as a starter led the entire NFL in Total QBR from inside the pocket last season, an indication he wasn't overly reliant on read-option tactics to produce. However, his QBR score from inside the pocket was just 27.4 in the Super Bowl compared to 96.0 for the Ravens' Joe Flacco.
The point about progression reading is one begging for a closer look; I've heard it before regarding Kaepernick but think it could use explanation and context.
Note: This analysis from Douglas was offered in conjunction with the presence of Kaepernick and Wilson on the ESPY ballot for Best Breakthrough Athlete. ESPY voting concludes Wednesday.