It's been a whirlwind 12 months for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick took over the starting job after Alex Smith suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams last November. He went on to take the Niners to the Super Bowl, becoming the biggest Bay Area football figure since a couple of guys named Montana and Young took snaps there.
Now, as Kaepernick brings the limping 49ers into St. Louis for Thursday night's showdown with the Rams, those heady days of 2012 seem like a decade ago. The Niners, considered preseason favorites to repeat as NFC champs, have lost two of their first three games, including a divisional thrashing at Seattle and last week's 27-7 home loss to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
While the Niners have struggled with key injuries, doubts have begun to arise about Kaepernick's ability to lead the team. San Francisco let their former number one overall pick in Smith walk to Kansas City where he is 3-0 for Andy Reid's club. Now with only Colt McCoy with any experience behind Kaepernick, the Niners have bet the house on his ability to be the franchise quarterback.
After three games, Kaepernick's numbers pale in comparison to those he put up in 2012. He's already lost as many starts in three games as he did in seven last year. He's thrown four picks already, compared to only three last year and taken half as many sacks in three games as he did in seven last year. Before the Seattle game, the Niners' offense had put up 464 yards and 33 points per Kaepernick start. In his last two games, they've averaged only 230 yards and scored a total of 10 points in eight quarters.
Perhaps more disturbing, the seemingly unflappable Kaepernick is beginning to show some signs of the stress getting to him. In a conference call on Tuesday with the St. Louis media, Kaepernick spent all of five minutes answering a number of questions, all met with terse non-answers that sounded more like a Bill Belichick presser than a newly minted media darling raking in the endorsement deals. He certainly didn't sound like the confident, if not cocky, Kaepernick of 2012.
Much of Kaepernick's frustration is due to opposing defenses who are doing a better job of keeping him in the pocket, forcing him to be a passer rather than a runner. After scoring seven touchdowns in as many starts last year, Kaepernick has yet to find the end zone with his feet in 2013. Add to that the absence of Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, and last week, Vernon Davis, and Kaepernick is finding life much more difficult this season than last.
As his head coach, Jim Harbaugh, pointed out during his own portion of the conference call, success in the NFL usually goes to whoever makes the better adjustments. His quarterback has reached a point in his career where he needs to adjust to what the opposition is doing to him. If he can't, the Niners could be in big trouble.
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