In 2012, with RG3’s sensational rookie year and Colin Kaepernick leading the San Francisco 49ers to the brink of a Super Bowl victory, many thought that the NFL was seeing a changing of the guard at the quarterback position. Fast forward three years, and RG3 is on the bench and there are rumours of Kaepernick potentially suffering a similar fate after taking a step back. Yet their contemporaries Russell Wilson and Cam Newton have both tasted varying levels of success as mobile quarterbacks. Griffin’s struggles after his debut year have been well documented. So what’s happened to Kaepernick? The 49ers drafted Kaepernick in the second round in 2011 to serve as Alex Smith’s backup. When Smith got injured midway through 2012, the 49ers turned to Kaepernick.
Kaepernick remained the starter after Smith recovered and led the 49ers to the division title, won the NFC Championship and almost beat the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. In his rookie year, RG3 was drafted 1st overall by Washington as the Redskins effectively sold the farm to move up and take him. After opponents had struggled to deal with Griffin’s dual-threat abilities, RG3 led the Redskins to their first NFC East title since 1999. Kaepernick played well in 2013, once again leading the 49ers to the NFC title game. But they lost to Seattle.
In 2014, Kaepernick struggled to transition into more of a pocket passer, and San Francisco failed to make the playoffs. His struggles have carried over into this season, and rumours have circled that Kaepernick could be benched or won’t have his contract renewed after the season. RG3 has had similar struggles, although injury has played a huge part in the sorry quarterback saga in Washington. After rotating as the starter with Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy last year, Griffin was benched for Cousins in the offseason. Griffin has failed to gel well with either of his coaches in Washington. Mike Shanahan took criticism for throwing Griffin into a playoff game in 2012 while injured, and Griffin hasn’t been a good fit for Jay Gruden’s offense. It’s telling that half of the quartet of the ‘new breed’ of NFL quarterback have had to change their styles. Both Russell Wilson and Cam Newton have had to polish their pocket passing skills in order to succeed.
In Wilson’s case, that has paid off after two consecutive Super Bowl appearances and a ring. Newton led the Panthers to back-to-back NFC South titles over the last two seasons, the first time that division has had a repeat winner since the league reshuffle in 2002. Griffin has also seemed unable to gel with his team-mates, and hasn’t acted like a franchise quarterback. To his credit, Kaepernick had been better in that regard, acting more like a franchise quarterback on and off the field. He tried to fix his own problems by working with Kurt Warner in the offseason. But after struggling early this season after the team was gutted by retirements, Kaepernick looks like he isn’t able to cope with the team on his shoulders. Kaepernick is reportedly “alone on an island” in the 49ers’ locker room, according to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer. Teammates Vernon Davis and Joe Staley reportedly had a heated verbal exchange about Kaepernick’s play this season. While new head coach Jim Tomsula has downplayed the tension, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com revealed that “something big could happen” in San Francisco. Could Kaepernick be benched or even traded? For me, Kaepernick’s fate was sealed when Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan after tension with the ownership. Harbaugh had been Kaepernick’s biggest supporter in San Francisco, and helped him succeed in 2012 and 2013.
So where could Kaepernick go? It might sound crazy, but the best place I can think of is Green Bay. If Kaepernick can sit behind Aaron Rodgers for a few years and learn from the reigning MVP, as Rodgers did under Brett Favre, he could be a good option for the Packers. Kaepernick would become a bigger, stronger version of Rodgers; able to be mobile in the pocket and extend plays. I know that’s a long shot. But Kaepernick deserves and needs a change of scenery. If he remains in San Francisco, he could end up buried on the depth chart behind his former backups… Remind you of anyone?