Colin Kaepernick is the “Prettiest Girl at the Bar”: Is Kaepernick Worth a Trade?
Why is everyone so interested in Colin Kaepernick?
Sure, at one point, when he “Wally Pipp’ed” incumbent starting QB Alex Smith in 2012, he looked to be one of the best running QBs in the league. In fact, there was even a early 2014 Madden commercial putting him on par as direct competition (from way back in mythical summer camp) with Super Bowl Champion QB, Russell Wilson.
Of course, in 2014, Kaepernick regressed significantly, and Wilson went on to his second straight Super Bowl (though infamously throwing an INT at the end of the game in perhaps one of the worst called plays in Super Bowl history). Then in 2015, Kaepernick got benched midway through the season in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Yes, the same Blaine Gabbert that wasn’t even good enough to play for the perpetually cellar dwelling Jacksonville Jaguars.
So it’s a pretty big surprise that in this offseason, Kaepernick has been the talk of the town, being tied to the Cleveland Browns, the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos. Ultimately, the Browns grabbed RGIII (and you already know how I feel about that) since Kap, although liking the idea of going to Cleveland, didn’t want to take a pay cut. And now we hear that the Broncos, after somehow losing their QB heir apparent, Brock Osweiler, to the Houston Texans, are having the same problem to the tune of $4.9M.
— Jason Cole (@JasonColeBR) April 4, 2016
So now, since no deals are in sight and his $11.9M base salary was guaranteed with the 49ers as of April 1 (wow, what an April Fool’s joke on the 49ers that was!), it looks like Kap may just stay in San Francisco and compete for a chance to have his career crushed by new head coach Chip Kelly, but it’s still an open question where he’ll be when the 2016 season starts.
The big 40 pound gorilla in the room though is “Should anyone really be interested in Colin Kaepernick”? Well, let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Is it Colin Kaepernick’s Fault?
I think we can all agree that 2015 was not a good year for Kap.
As I mentioned above, he was benched for weak armed Blaine Gabbert midway through the year. But although Gabbert isn’t terrific, perhaps Kaepernick really did this to himself. According to Football Outsiders, there were 37 QBs in 2015 that had a minimum of 200 pass attempts, and of that group, Kaepernick was ranked 3rd to last for Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (“DYAR”, which ranks QBs in terms of total value) and 4th to last for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (“DVOA”, which ranks QBs in terms of value per play). In addition, Kaepernick had the 9th worst QBR (47.1) of any QB in this group.
Further, his TD:INT ratio was at an all-time low. If we look at the TD:INT ratio each season in which Kapernick was a starter, it would be 3.33 in 2012, 2.63 in 2013, 1.90 in 2014 and 1.20 in 2015. So each year since he took over, Kaepernick threw proportionately less TDs and more INTs. By the time he got benched in 2015, he was barely a third as good as he was when he took over for Alex Smith in 2012.
So, on the one hand, perhaps Kaepernick deserved the benching.
Well, hold on sec there, speedy.
Also according to Football Outsiders, the 49ers offensive line has been in the bottom 10 for pass protection since Kaepernick took over as a starter in San Francisco, but was particularly bad in 2015 as they were ranked LAST, allowing 54 sacks with an adjusted sack rate of 9.6%. So his offensive line in 2015 was essentially a revolving door. Heck, a revolving door might have actually been better since at least it would have slowed down defenders a bit, and only let one through at a time. Unless, of course, you have someone awkwardly walking into the revolving door at the same time, which is always uncomfortable, in addition to being a major courtesy faux pas. But I digress. The point is, it’s no surprise Kaepernick would have a hard time completing passes while getting pummeled by opposing defenses.
In addition, the 49ers got rid of long time workhorse RB Frank Gore in 2015 in favor of Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush, both of whom ended up injured and out of the game during the season. Heck, they had to rely on NFL retread RB Shaun Draughn for a good portion of the year. And how did this impact ground game effectiveness? Well, again looking at Football Outsiders, the 49ers had a “rush rank” of 21 in 2015. This was by far the lowest since Kaepernick took over in 2012 (8th in 2014, 14th in 2013 and 3rd in 2012). Without Gore’s 1000+ yard seasons averaging around 4.4 yards per carry, there was little to no threat that the 49ers could move the ball on the ground, allowing opposing defenses in 2015 to key on the pass, perhaps making it even more difficult on Kap.
And finally, there was a coaching change in 2015. From 2012 to 2014, Jim Harbaugh was in charge. In 2015, it was Jim Tomsula. Harbaugh was a QB-centric offensive minded coach. Not only was he a QB in the NFL, but he also served time as the QB coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2002 to 2003, before making a name for himself in the college ranks as a head coach. Tomsula, on the other hand, is a defensive minded coach that came up the ranks as a defensive coordinator. So there is some hope that, although having a different offensive philosophy, a QB-centric offensive minded coach like Eagles castoff Chip Kelly can help Kaepernick turn back the clock to the times he spent under Harbaugh.
I think the bottom line is that Kaepernick may not be to blame for all of his regression in 2015. Yes, he was already trending down from 2012, but I don’t think he’s truly as bad as we saw in 2015. But is “better than 2015 Colin Kaepernick” worth $11.9M a year?
Apparently, the Browns and the Broncos didn’t think so, as they were looking for something in the $7M to $8M range. Of course, it almost doesn’t matter anymore with all talks with other teams breaking down (though there’s some glimmer that talks are still on with the Broncos) and Kaepernick attending 49ers camp, particularly since the 49ers really don’t have many other options behind center. But if he does end up with a change of scenery in 2016, particularly behind an better offensive line with a legitimate RB threat, I wouldn’t be so fast to bet against him.
Of course, that might be just because I’m afraid that he and he excessive tats may beat me up if I do.