Colin Kaepernick was once on top of the world. Back in 2012, he stepped in for an injured Alex Smith at quarterback. And once he got in there, he would never relinquish the job. Colin was special during that time. The 49ers were an offense that was dangerous in the running game and sputtered in the passing game. With Colin there at first, they began to look better in the passing game. The biggest change came when they went to the read-option offense. That threw a wrinkle that many teams in the NFL were not prepared for. And because of that, he was able to exploit teams each and every week. The team gained momentum and made it to the Super Bowl that season. They ended up being one play short of winning the game, as Kaepernick’s throw to wide receiver Michael Crabtree sailed incomplete over his head. But even with that loss, many looked at the 49ers as a team that would eventually win a title with Kaepernick under center.
Many expected the athletic quarterback to improve over time. It was recognized that he still had some things to learn in the NFL and if he did, he could be special. Ron Jaworski even went as far as saying Kaepernick would be one of the greatest of all-time. The ability he had to run the football from the quarterback position along with the rocket arm he had was something many had not seen. And given time to learn, there was thought that he would help redefine the position. The 49ers believed enough in him to give out a seven-year, $126 million deal in 2014. But over the last two-plus years, it seems as if the promise many saw in Kaepernick has not come to materialize. He has not been as accurate as many thought he would have. And even thought the 49ers have had success as a team up until last season, the questions still came as to when Colin would take that next step. This season, the onus was on Colin to step up and lead this team. Gone were defensive leaders Patrick Willis and Justin Smith along with many other free agents leaving town. The 49ers were a shell of what they were but they were banking on Kaepernick to lead this team this season. With the work he put in this offseason, there was an expectation that he would be a little more sound in his techniques and make some progressions in his game. But unfortunately, the work he put in was not showing on the field consistently. Eventually it got to the point where Colin looked as if he was second-guessing himself. The 49ers were struggling offensively (last in the NFL in scoring) and unfortunately most of the blame landed on the talented quarterback. And before the game versus Atlanta, the 49ers decided to bench Colin and put in backup Blaine Gabbert. The former 1st round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars has equipped himself well and the offense has looked a little better. And as for Colin, it was recently announced that he will be having season-ending shoulder for a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Many see this as the end of the Colin Kaepernick era in San Francisco.
Colin is a talented athlete and that can never be questioned. A man that big and that fast with a cannon for an arm is a dangerous weapon. But over his time, it seemed like the progression was never made. And this year, he was expected to carry the offense. Unfortunately it did not work out and it looks as if he is out the door. But this is not going to be the end of Colin in the NFL. Despite his performance in San Francisco, there have been some other factors that have contributed to it. The fact that he was one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL in 2014 and this current year is something that has to be looked at. The offensive line has been giving effort, but they have not been the most reliable source for keeping Kaepernick clean. And while sometimes there have been issues because Colin may hold on to the ball too long, there have been other issues with the line blowing assignments and leaving him out to dry. Either way, Colin’s looking more and more on his way out of town. What was thought to be a new era and an upgrade at the quarterback position over Alex Smith has turned into a team that may be in the running for a new quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft. One guy the Niners could potentially be looking at as his replacement should they draft a quarterback is Jared Goff. The talented quarterback from the University of California has drawn rave reviews. He has good accuracy and some say that he has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback. For the 49ers, it would be a chance to revisit a mistake they made in the past. In the 2005 NFL Draft, the Niners had the chance to draft a talented quarterback from the University of California. But instead of doing so, they took University of Utah quarterback Alex Smith. The quarterback they passed on: Aaron Rodgers. Smith has been solid the last few years in the NFL, but he was bad in most of his years with the 49ers. Rodgers, on the other hand, is adding chapters in his Hall Of Fame career with each passing year. A mistake the 49ers made in the past would be able to be corrected ten years later in a sense. Whether they are able to get Goff or not depends on positioning the draft, but he would be someone that would help the 49ers rebuild.
As far as Colin, the rumors of what happens next with him have no begun. There have been talks of trading him already starting. The first thing that has to happen in any situation is Colin has to recover from surgery. It will not matter if the team wants to trade him if he is not healthy enough to pass a physical. All indications is he will be healthy enough to be looked at by other teams, so unless anything unexpected happens, he should be ready to go. The most important date in the offseason for the 49ers will be April 1st. The indications are that the 49ers will try to trade Kaepernick this offseason before that date to save some dead salary cap space. And with a talent like Kaepernick, there will be teams that want him. One team that could come up in discussion is the New York Jets. Currently they have veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick leading their team. Behind him, they have Geno Smith and rookie Bryce Petty. Neither of these guys has won a playoff game nor a bigtime game. Colin, despite what some may think of him, has won big games and also has played in plenty of big games. There are a few other teams that may want to retain his services as well, but the main though that has to go into getting Kaepernick how do you get him? If you trade for him, you inherit his contract. His contract dictates that he would be a $16.8 million cap hit for a team next season. That would be a high price to pay for a guy that could or could not be the answer. The other option that teams can look at is waiting up until April 1st. If the 49ers waive Colin, then he will be free to sign with who he wants to once he clears waivers. At that point, you get a talented player for less of a price tag. That would make him more attractive to teams right then and there and it would also open up the doors for more teams to take a look at him.
There are plenty of things that can happen this offseason with Colin Kaepernick. For all we know, he could be a member of the 49ers team next year. But there is also an overwhelming thought that he will be gone and his career is over in San Francisco after going on injured reserve. The next few months will tell us a lot about where he goes or does not go from here and where the 49ers go as well. It should be interesting to watch what chess moves are made.