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Thursday, August 15, 2013
What drives 49ers' Colin Kaepernick

By Mike Sando

San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh recently hit on something significant regarding quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Colin Kaepernick, Jim Harbaugh
Colin Kaepernick knows people criticize him for being the first 49er quarterback to lose a Super Bowl.
"There's something special there, in terms of what drives him," Harbaugh said. "He lives in, I think, one of those worlds where he’s motivated for success and for achievement. Not satisfied, no matter how good it is, and I think there’s people that come along like that."

This aspect of Kaepernick comes through in conversations with him. For example, Kaepernick doesn't revel in reaching the Super Bowl during his first partial season as an NFL starter. Instead, he's driven by reminders that he was the first 49ers quarterback to reach the big game without winning it. These are the sorts of things explaining why he really is the first one to arrive for work each day.

Harbaugh's comment sent me into my notebook for another look at my recent conversation with Kaepernick from 49ers camp. Here goes:

You've been called a running quarterback and worse. What is the next thing people will say about you to subtly detract from what you do as a quarterback?

Colin Kaepernick: As far as the next myth that is going to come up? In my mind it’s going to be he can’t win the big game. To me that is what I hear now.

I hadn't even thought of that. Shouldn't reaching the Super Bowl in your first partial season as a starter count for something?

CK: "You had a good season, but you’re the first Niner to lose a Super Bowl. You’re the first one to throw an interception in the Super Bowl." So, I mean, my mindset is I have to prove that it happened, but I’ll be back. I’m going to win one. That is my goal right now, to go out and prove that that happened but that is not who I am. That was a one-time deal.

Were you bad in that game?

CK: I think, I mean, if we finish that last drive and we score, I mean, it’s never brought up that I was the first person to throw a pick or anything like that. I think the result dictates some of that, but at the same time for me I feel like there were some plays I could have made. There were some things I could have done different. Possibly put us in better situations.

I thought you were going to say critics would call you a one-read quarterback. Someone who hasn't become a progression passer.

CK: Oh, yeah. I mean, I have heard that since college. That, oh, he’s going one read.

What does that even mean?

CK: That’s a good question. I don’t think there is any quarterback that is successful in the NFL that is one read. I mean, if you are sticking to one read, it’s going to be hit or miss and your chances of hitting more than you miss aren’t very good. So, I mean, to play in the NFL you have to be able to go through a progression. You have to be able to go through your reads to know what a defense is doing and where you want to go with the ball. To say you’re a one-read quarterback, those are the quarterbacks in my mind that don’t make it. They don’t play well.

Any specific examples of you reading the progression?

CK: I know a perfect example is the Chicago game, the touchdown to Crab. He was the fourth read.

Yes, you drifted on that one.

CK: Yeah. Ended up coming back, scrambling out, hit him. One, two, three, four, straight across the field. He is No. 4. And, I mean, you want to say you’re a one-read quarterback, I would have never got back to two. So, I mean, to me that is ridiculous. It’s people that aren’t watching film. It’s people that don’t know what the offense is trying to do and just make that assumption. "Well, he is a running quarterback so he must just have one read." And I feel like those go hand in hand with the perception people have, not the reality of what the game is.

There's still some educating that needs to be done along those lines. Stereotypes die hard.

CK: My biggest thing is, there is a huge difference to me between a running quarterback and a quarterback that can run. And l think a lot of people just assume, "Oh, he can run, so he’s a running quarterback. He must not mentally be able to take the game and so he runs." And I think that is what the perception is. And I think the more people realize that there are exciting plays of running and the quarterback using their legs or extending plays and making a play off that, and those are the plays that are shown in highlights because those are abnormal. Those are things that aren’t typically going on. When you sit back in the pocket and you throw, I mean, a basic over-the-middle [pass] that is your second or third read and you hit them in stride, well, there are quarterbacks that do that. That is what you are supposed to do, so it’s not made a big deal of. I think people get caught up on flashy plays and that is what they see. "Oh, that was a flashy play. That must be all he does."

And that doesn't even cover what happens before the snap. What's an example of your work in that area?

CK: There is one in the Chicago game as well off the top of my head that we had a specific play we wanted to get to versus a look and it was kind of a specialty thing and we got to it versus that look and I want to say the run went for 15 yards or something like that. That was something that people aren’t going to notice because it was just a run play, but that was the play in the game that the offensive coordinator was most proud of me for. He said, "That is what we need from you. You have to be able to do those things for us." That was something that, I mean, out of everything I did that game, he said that was the most impressive thing.

Any idea what your stats would look like if we projected them from your 10 starts over a 16-game season?

CK: I have no idea.

You would be around 3,800 yards passing with 800 yards rushing. You would be in striking distance of a 4,000-1,000 season. Is that something realistic?

CK: I don’t know. Time will tell. If I could be the first one to do that, that would be phenomenal. If it means for my team, for this offense, I’m being very productive, which ultimately is what you go out to do, to go out and be productive for your team and help them put points on the board. That is not something I really think about. I worry about game-to-game, play-to-play, making sure I’m making the right decisions.

Some analysts have said the Ravens showed how to play you by hitting you on those read-option plays, even when you didn't keep the ball.

CK: To me, they never really hit me. There was never a shot during the game where it’s "Oh, he hit me." People don’t realize that the same time where [Terrell] Suggs is running at me, hitting me, Frank [Gore] is breaking for 10 yards. If you want to hit me in the face every play and try to intimidate me and let him run for 10 yards, I’ll take a hit in the face every play. So, really, pick your poison. You can say what you want.

These criticisms of you, you thrive off them. They give you your edge.

CK: It is always something. It’s always, what’s the next thing going to be?