Kaepernick Faces Uncertain Future

When Colin Kaepernick exploded onto the scene midway through the 2012 season, which culminated in a narrow defeat in Super Bowl XLVII, it was difficult to find anyone who doubted his long-term future with the club. Even the most ardent critics of the read-option seemed to believe that Kaepernick possessed enough arm talent to overcome the inevitable adjustments opposing defenses would make to his running abilities. In short, there was little doubt that he and Jim Harbaugh had firmly established themselves as one of the top quarterback-head coach combos in the league, the West Coast equivalent of Belichick and Brady.

Although 2013 did not bring with it the same explosive success for Kaepernick, the 49ers still came devastatingly close to having another crack at the Lombardi Trophy, with Kaepernick throwing an endzone interception in the waning seconds of the NFC Championship Game to seal a 23-17 win for the eventual-champion Seahawks. Kaepernick finished the regular season with 21 touchdown passes to just eight interceptions, and he added 524 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.

But then 2014 happened. Amid reports that Harbaugh was on his way out at the end of the year, Kaepernick saw his performance slip, throwing 19 TDs to 10 picks and ranking as the 28th-best quarterback in the league per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required), behind the likes of Mark Sanchez, Shaun Hill, and Kirk Cousins.

Now, as Tim Kawakawi of the San Jose Mercury News writes, 2015 has essentially become a lame-duck year for Kaepernick, as the seven-year, $126MM extension he signed last summer was for all practical purposes a $13MM signing bonus accompanied by seven one-year contracts. That means that the 49ers could, if they wanted, release Kaepernick without blinking an eye and without paying him another dime. Combine that reality with Kaepernick’s cap number, which will be $15.3MM in 2015 and will only go up from there, and throw in the fact that none of the current San Francisco coaches have the same personal investment in Kaepernick as Harbaugh did, and the quarterback’s status with the team becomes more than a little unclear.

And then there is the 2015 season itself, which could see the offense further regress with the possible departures of Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree and a potential schematic overhaul with the promotion of Geep Chryst to offensive coordinator. If that happens, or if the revamped coaching staff and Kaepernick do not mesh, next offseason will bring with it a great deal of uncertainty under center. With the way Kaepernick’s contract is structured, his margin for error is pretty slim, and each season will essentially serve as a new audition for an organization that has proven it is willing to prematurely cut ties with even its most successful personnel.

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48 comments on “Kaepernick Faces Uncertain Future

  1. Don Taylor

    All valid points, but fail to address the issues with Roman, the offense, the injuries in the line and the lack of receiver options. What happened to tight end production. For any team to thrive and the QB it depends on all playing at a high level. The Niners missed last season for many reasons and injuries.
    I also take exception to Jed York’s comment the success of the team is ultimately his responsibility. So if they fail does he lose his job too?

    • meep

      I wouldn’t say lack of WR talent . 49ers had 4 WRS who all had talent. Johnson , Boldin ,Crabtree etc.. But not using Davis more was stupid. It like we were the jags who never use their TE even though he has talent. I think the offense we use went away from what made use good and a hurt oline didn’t help either

    • R. U. Serious

      Roman was the biggest issue as far as our offense went. And for Harbaugh to change our complete identity to a passing offense behind a run blocking o-line was his ticket out of San Fran.

    • derrick ringgold sr

      u rite on da money sum qb’s need weapons n some can make bums look better than they really r like brady n Peyton has dun 4 yrs wit less talent kaep needs playmakers lets go niner nation

    • opitre

      Roman was a scapegoat. Now, he did become pretty predictable as it appeared that they checked out of plays too often, but the biggest issue with the offense was Kaps decision making and his lack of accuracy. He wouldn’t pull the trigger on an open Wr against cover zero and he would force a throw to the 1st option with tight coverage when the 2nd or 3rd option was “more” open too often.

      • 23333339v2


      • Barn

        Roman was the cruds, who are you kidding??? His second half play calling was atrocious, as he played “not to lose” from the 3rd quarter on…..Kap did not have a stellar year, but the O-lline was terrible, Davis almost non-existent (except for dropped passes), and we still lack a downfield threat among our wideouts (at least those who played) which reflects a true failure on our drafting ability since
        we had tons of picks the last couple years. Lots of blame to go around, not just Kap. He can be great given the right coach, system, and (productive) personal.

        • opitre

          Yes, there were way too many drops. But with regards to Roman, I disagree. Roman was ok. A lot of the route combinations were very good and there plays to be made. Kap just missed too many of them. And A LOT of the sacks were Kaps fault. He was too uncomfortable in the pocket and he would end up breaking down the protection himself.

          • Barn

            I actually thought Roman started out fine in many games, but got way too conservative in the 2nd half. Plus, it’s fine to have Kap drop back in the pocket, but he did not take advantage of his rollout ability enough, like Seattle does with Wilson. And I would have to disagree with you on his pocket performance……not good, but having a half second to throw at times probably messed up his confidence. I saw lineman literally “whiff” at times this year, not even laying a hand on a rushing lineman—even Brent Jones called their performance “pathetic” and “embarrassing” some games, and said that any QB in the league would have gotten killed behind such poor protection. Not sure who wouldn’t be “uncomfortable” in that position. Would have liked to have seen more designed rollouts to avoid the rush…..at least try and keep the defensive honest and take advantage of Kap’s skills.

    • John

      Lack of receiver options was Baalke’s fault for not getting a W/R last year.

      • Barn

        Right on!

        • Darren35

          How can the 49ers have 4 WRs with 1000 yard capabilities and only ONE WR stood out from the rest?

    • JimHarbaughsguys

      “What happened to tight end production.”

      Mangini happened. The same guy who stunk up the NE defense and who now got promoted to being our DC.

      ” but fail to address the issues with Roman”

      Roman was hired immediately. None of the other offensive guys were. That is why we could bring them back.

      “and the lack of receiver options.”

      What are you talking about? We had 4 WR’s who’ve had 1,000 yard seasons. Plus Vernon Davis. That is more passing attack power than we’ve had since Mooch was here.

  2. ssclesq

    No doubt yorks will kick him to the door. Watch this year, they will instruct Tomsula to run him to the ground. They don’t care if he gets pounded to crap, if they think he will help the brand. ( don’t think they even like football) betcha they draft a qb in the 3rd rd to be ready to take his place on the cheap in 2016. Peopke forget that they fired mooch and seifret, now Harbaugh after playoff runs. They don’t want to pay the players or coaches. That’s why no one except the cast off from bad teams comes here to coach. ( name the most crucial position coach, wr for us!) But they will leave ala mcarthy and turner and fangio as soon as they possibly can. The yorks don’t care about the fans, the players, the coaches or football, only how much they can save on bottled water. By mid season the team will be extremely mediocre, and York will scape goat kaep, the running game or someone except Rowell…..oooops I meant baalke. The reverse Midas touch you all, turns gold into sheet.

    • Brass Balls

      Let’s see… Highest paid coaching staff in the league last season, 4th highest player payroll in the league, 1.3 billion dollar state of the art stadium…. and here’s this guy calling them cheapskates.

  3. Greg Kimbel

    Excuse me?! They seem to be building around Kaepernick; to allow him to play to his strengths. They appear to be supporting him, not wanting to get rid of him. Slow day at the office? Nothing else to report or write about?

  4. david middleton

    49er’s lost SB in 2012 in hard fought game. If one of passes to Crabtree is complete 9 er’s win. 2013 they played a great game against Seattle but ball tipped be Sherman and intercepted. Last year 49er’s were basically playing 3rd string players because they probably had more injuries than any other team in NFL. By the way we have some great 3rd string players. Team lost 3 or 4 games they should have won. Point is I think Kap is a great player and played well under Harbs. 2015 the niners have new HC, DC and OC that have no experience at those positions. Tomsula was an O line coach. Big jump to HC in my opinion. I think Kap can lead niners going forward but not so sure all new coaches will work. I guess from Yorks perspective it’s a win-win. Kap does well than York’s good with fans or if he doesn’t play well he can blame it on Kap much like he did to Harbs this year and doesn’t have to pay him for 2016. Personally I think it’ll take a loooong time for 9er’s to get out of mess York created with possibility of niners not only losing the west but possibly being in 3rd place, maybe 4th.

    • meep

      i agree with what you say other then tomsula actually was the dline coach and never HC in the nfl but coach in once lived euro league. Plus if I’m right our dc a former dc for the pats and Browns. Till the Rams get a QB 49ers will always be better then them. 49ers still have talent so what he not a big time coach maybe he will surprise you and make this team better then it was

      • david middleton

        I sure hope so but the way everything all the things York did this year doesn’t bode well. I could list them all but by now everybody knows the long list of bad moves. I just think it all started with the lie that Harbs and 49er’s parting was mutual. Harbs has said on a couple of occasions that he wanted to stay. York as owner should have let Harbs finish out his final year because I think it would have produced a better outcome than what we’ll get from current coaches. The whole York thing just left a sour taste. I really think he’s clueless on how to run a football team. I hope I’m wrong but think he might have screwed the team for years like his dad did when he fired Mooch.

        • Sandy

          The Yorks leave a real bad bad taste in my mouth, not that they truly give one iota about any of us fans. Too bad our beloved Niners have now essentially become “just” their cash cow. Jed and Dr. are sadly destroying a great team, breaks my heart.

  5. Farewell Greg Roman, now you can mess up some one else’s offense with your garbage play-calling.

  6. Andre

    Why would a local writer even say something like this? What’s was the highest level of football he ever played? What analytical evidence has he ever displayed? Scouting ability? Kaps regression is a sophomore slump. Coupled by the fact that Boldin was his best option. This writer joins the likes of his peers in that Vernon Davis is washed up! He was hurt! Crab is a BUM! Stevie Johnson and B lloyd didn’t pan out. He also forced him self to stay in the pocket. Give me a break guy and go learn the game! I’m sick of writers shaping politics, sports and the news. Go to the secon beat country in the world and exercise your freedom of speech there!

  7. Lou Palumbo

    That that’s not even what the article form Kawakawi says….do you guys just write whatever you feel like and state it as fact

    • ProFootballRumors

      I don’t think there are any inconsistencies between what we wrote and what Kawakami did. No one is saying Kaepernick is necessarily going anywhere — just that the contract he signed, along with a few other mitigating factors (Harbaugh’s departure, etc.), mean that the 49ers have the flexibility to explore other options if he has another season like 2014.

      — Luke

  8. Robby Van Hook

    The article lost all credibility when it cited Tim Kawakawi, who is nothing more than a uneducated (in regards to football) tmz style sports writer. Lol give me a break. Pay cut maybe but teams don’t get ride of qbs very easily, let alone good one’s. You want to put blame on offensive stuggles that belongs to roman and harbaugh. Offensive minds that couldn’t rank better than 20 all years at sf.

    • meep

      Roman and injuries are to blame. Harbs a great coach but we shouldn’t be surprised he left each spot he coach he never last more then 3 or 4 years. I wouldn’t be surprise he if left michgain after a few years

      • Robby Van Hook

        I totally agree with roman and injuries as well. We would have made playoffs if we didn’t have so many. I was more disappointed with how Harbaugh managed roman and the offense. He’s a amazing coach but I though he would have had better offensive production. I believe great head coaches are not only leaders of men but great managers and that is where I believe harbaugh failed. He showed that he was unable or maybe unwilling to manage his offensive staff.

  9. Alan Amark

    Harbaugh and Roman are gone and Kaepernick, is still on the team. He will either right the ship and justify this years installment of his contract or he won’t. He had a rough year, no doubt. But he was not the reason that the 49ers failed to advance this past season. Jed York is. And as a prior commenter has pointed out, he will not likely lose his job, even though he’s the one who deserves it. If for no other reason than the apparent inability of the Yorks to produce an individual to head the team who is smart enough to let the football people run it and keep his big stupid yap shut. This guy even looks like a drooling imbecile
    p.s. Kaepernick would be an improvement over any QB on at least half the other teams in the league. Conservatively…..

    • meep

      Rams would sure take him in a heart beat. Kap like RGIII need to be in the right offense for them to do well and kap was when we were a run first team. Kap a good QB but he no Brady and kap needs a good run game to help him

  10. Rich Spahn

    Jed York do us a favor and quit and take trent baalke with u. U fired the best coach we’ve had in years because the gm and hc couldn’t get along? Then you tell 49er faithfuls that the next coach will be about the bill Walsh teaching ways. Jim tomsula is a rookie hc and now your planning to get rid of colin. Nobody believes your bs. Sounds like Jed York went to al Davis classes. Give the franchise back to your uncle and save us the embarrassment.

  11. Brass Balls

    The 49ers are pioneering a new era in contracts for professional athletes. Kaepernick’s contract is the way all sports contracts should be structured. If you have a good season you’ll be rewarded with another season and you’ll be paid well. If not, the team can get rid of you without being stuck with a lengthy contract.

  12. Bill

    I have a better idea. Fire Baalke and can York.

  13. Gregory B. Lewis

    The worst type of journalism. Have some foundation to the crap you so called journalists put out. This is a regurgitation of a non-story that has been in place since Kap originally signed the contract. Nothing to see here…what should be written about is management’s utter lack of failure to demonstrate support for their players and coach. Jed needs to come out and silence this nonsense so these so called journalists can find some newsworthy stories to write about. Tired of this ridiculousness. Where is the depth in sports journalism today #nonexistent

    • ProFootballRumors

      This argument was also made by many a year ago when similar concerns were being raised about Jim Harbaugh’s contract situation and uncertain future in San Francisco. And Jed York DID come out multiple times last season to try to dismiss speculation about Harbaugh leaving. It didn’t change much.

      The 49ers could have made a more long-term commitment to Kaepernick — virtually every QB who had recently signed a long-term extension before Kaepernick did received more guaranteed money and more security. The Niners deliberately chose this structure, and looking at why they did it and what it allows them to do is hardly “ridiculous.”

      It’s a non-story if Kaepernick comes out and has a great 2015 season. It’s a story until that happens.

      — Luke

      • Gregory B. Lewis

        Jed York’s response was ineffective because he didn’t truly support Harbaugh. Perhaps the same is in play here. My point is that even if Jed doesn’t fully support Kap, Kap IS the QB for next year. So, come on out and demonstrate public support…I would even suggest that Jed/Trent as a measure of good faith, make some slight amendments to the contract, allow for some of the incentives to vest, so that Kap can feel some measure of support. Last year was a dog year and a lot of it had to do with Mgmt. letting sports “journalists”, and sports talk blow up with all the rumors an conjecture. Jed et al would do well to kill THIS story, or suffer the same fate, and drain from the Faithful. We won’t stand for continued nonsense…we got the World Champs in Baseball and the best team in Basketball. As per usual, the team needs to realize, if the product isn’t good the people will not come. Kap is the QB for next year, and is their best bet to get back to the playoffs next year. I, admittedly, had a real hard time with Kap last year, but he “got right” during the last games and I think he is properly focused on what he needs to do to be a successful QB in the NFL. I also believe the unsettled coaching issue ruined his focus this past year. Let’s not repeat the same madness. Keep the QB focused on the job at hand. — Gregory

        • ProFootballRumors

          All fair points. And you’re right that Kaepernick isn’t going anywhere before the 2015 season.

          That doesn’t mean we won’t occasionally come back to this story though — on this site, at least, a major part of our content involves looking forward to what might happen (based on contract situations, player performance, coaching/front office situations, etc.) rather than waiting until it actually happens to write about it. Kapernick’s case is an unusual one, given all the different factors in play, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

          — Luke

          • Gregory B. Lewis

            Understood. It is indeed a newsworthy story. I just hate to see my team’s season get killed by story that won’t go away. Definitely worth keeping an eye on. Appreciate the responses.

  14. 23333339v2

    pretty tired of reading about the O Line injuries…..all O Lines have injuries. Roman was not fantastic….but apparently good enough to be hired within a minute after leaving the 49ers. But wait….we have Geep Chryst!! (sometimes I forget things)

  15. Kevin Dickinson

    Well it appears that Kaep is limited in his abilities. With that said, is it because of the play calling, pass protection, Personnel? Probably a little bit of everything. It appeared to me that Harbaugh knew he was going to be out this year. So he stopped coaching Kaep. How else do you explain Kaep not being able to go through his reads. The other thing is the Oline is built for the run. defenders just came blowing threw the line when a pass was coming. So the Niners need to get a better pass protecting schemes and they definitley need to relook at the read option in the offensive play calling. Willson for Seattle is still using it. the Seahawks were one play from back to back.

  16. For all of you trying to shift the blame from one person to another please give it a rest. The whole season on the offensive side of the ball was a disaster. Starting from Roman to the QB, WR, TE and OL. The only bright spot was Bolden. Other than that Roman’s play calling sucked. Kaepernick continued to show us his inability to read defenses. The Wider Receivers were unable to get open down field. Vernon Davis was a no show. Either his number wasn’t called or if it was called he dropped passes. The offensive line’s run blocking was inconsistent and their pass blocking was pathetic. They were all to blame

  17. King Pin

    Reads like an early funeral notice.

  18. Sandra George

    Crabtree, way over-rated.His performance Doesn’t even come close to earning what he is paid.

  19. tpmania

    These writers never let up. Let’s face it…Harbaugh was hand delivered THE best defense in the league, an adequate offense and he couldn’t get it done. Neither could Roman. Kaepernick just needed a little direction on playing the position, but Roman kept trying to drive square pegs into round holes. Kaep’s forte is not touch passes over the top…he throws 60-70 mph heat seeking missiles…but is very accurate when he does. Montana is the best QB of all time…yet he had only one road playoff win…in Chicago…THAT’S IT! Steve Young had ZERO…and having home field was no sure thing for Young because Green Bay owned him. Kaep has THREE road playoff wins. These writers, like Kawakami, Cohn, Ratto…none of them played a down and were probably the last ones picked in P.E. for any team there. Gimmee a break. Give Kaep a coach…get him an offensive line that’s not hurt all the time, and let’s see what happens!

  20. abluevoice

    This would just be another stupid move by 49er management. Who would they replace him with? More hopeless retreads like the years before Kap. He slipped last year because they tried to force him to stay in a collapsing pocket too long for receivers that couldn’t free themselves. He failed because Roman and Harbaugh and the new OC, who was QB coach last season took the run option away and didn’t give him any short pass plays to maintain possession and pile up first downs as Brady did against Seattle. He would thrive again with good coaches. Unfortunately the 49ers hired a bunch of inexpensive yes men for Balke as coaches. This team is going to suck big time next season with Balke and his new coaching staff, who think Singletary’s running offense is the solution. The league has passed these guys up.

  21. Darren35

    I remember the play book open up for JT O Sullivan and he crashed and burned big time. CK is going to get cut next year very least. York is not going to open the wallet.

    Example of a QB is:
    Depending on the schemes, you got WR 1, then WR 2 when 1 is covered, then you got maybe WR 3, WR 4, WR 5. Then on 2, 3 or 4 WR schemes, you got your TE. On a 2-3 WR scheme, you got your TE, RB, sometimes a FB.

    The 49ers do not operate a 3 WR, 4 WR or even a 5. If the 49ers operated a 4 WR scheme say, the 5 man front couldn’t protect from the blitz packages. JT, I mean, CK holds on to the ball too long. No quick release. Throws too fast. Doesn’t get set.blitzed, sacked.

    Many times, the 49ers went with a 2 TE set, but the 2 TE set was set up to help the 5 man front block blitzing. The running scheme is clearly obvious when Gore doesn’t have the speed.

    And to those 49er fans that say a 300 yard throwing QB can’t win the big one or can’t win a game, see Tom Brady’s 300 yard performance and eat your words.

    Yes, back in the old days, a QB for the 49ers was allowed to pass, succeed and we even had a WR that caught 20 passes in a game. BUt today’s 49er fan seems to hate a QB that throws for big yards and tries to lead the team.

  22. Darren35

    ProFootballRumors or any intelligent football fan:

    What will it take to get rid of Jed York? Last 10 years to my count has been nothing but bad football. A team going to the Superbowl has to have a good O and a good D and the 49ers do not have that good O. The good O they had had both running and passing. The 49ers O is only built for running, and even with the 5 man front, 2 TE sets, the running game is easily stopped when you can’t spread the D, and any scheme CK has fools nobody.

    As for Jed York, did he boondoggle Santa Clara? Isn’t that illegal? What about the area/traffic concerns? Rumors about fan fights? The coaching boondoggle, did York follow all NFL protocol and interviewed the minority candidates? How did York decide on Tomsula if he was not possibly interviewed?

    IF the NBA can get rid of Sterling, why can’t the NFL get rid of Jed York and tell him point blank to sell the 49ers franchise as they are disenfranchising their own fan base?

  23. Rich Spahn

    It was not Kaps fault this year. We had no o-line due to injuries. We have no field burner. Fastest man on wr squad was quitton patton. Plus the whole harbaugh thing was annoying.We had worked out Emmanuel Sanders…..Any one agree with me on the “Pay The Man” term? He was a field burner that was the missing link. But the inability and the incompetence of being cheap and wanting power ruined last year bottom line.We had several big names could have signed but the offer was sub par…. As well this was another year we threw picks away and had no big impact out of our rookies. I was screaming at the TV “Trade up to get Kelvin Benjerman who had a beastly of a performance Senior year and Rookie NFL year. What I’m saying is I don’t have faith in Ballke do to the bs or how supposibly he wanted O’Dell Beckham, But Jed felt he was injury prone. Something has to be done to right the ship for the 2015 season or it won’t be good for kap or the staff.

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    Testing comments!

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