Let Kap be Kap.
That phrase, often heard amongst the fan base of the San Francisco 49ers, refers to the notion that the coaching staff should let their ultra-athletic quarterback be who he is.
Kap, of course, is Colin Kaepernick, and what he is would be a dual threat athlete who can beat defenses with both his arm and legs.
Kaepernick is in no way a traditional pocket passer, and he’s struggled trying to adjust his game in order to be one over the past two seasons.
In fact, one could argue that Jim Harbaugh attempting to make Kaepernick play from the pocket was one of the major factors that led to his demise. The more Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman tried to reign Kaepernick in, the more he seemed to regress.
2014 was so bad that the San Francisco starting offense only managed 29 touchdowns and the team was held to 17 points or less in seven of their last 10 games. Much of that had to do with the poor play they were getting behind center.
It appears that the 49ers recognize this issue, and the new offensive staff they have put together will make it a point to build the attack around what Kaepernick actually does well, instead of making him adjust to what someone else wants him to be.
When CEO Jed York was asked about Kaepernick on NFL Network, he confirmed that they want to build around his strengths, and put the four-year veteran in a position to make plays.
“But with Kap you got a guy in Geep Chryst (offensive coordinator) who knows him better than anybody else,” said York. “You have a great guy in Steve Logan (quarterbacks coach) that’s coming in that’s going to work with him on fundamentals and to put a system that’s going to put Kap in the best position to make plays.”
“How many quarterbacks in this league can run 90 yards for a touchdown? I can’t think of many, but you have to put Kap in position where he can make those plays and put Kap in position where we can run the ball. We can throw the ball in ways that allows him to be successful and let him be the absolute stud that he can be on the field, and that’s what you’re going to see from us next year. Defenses are not going to want to play against us because you’re not going to know where we’re going to hit you.”
Chryst, who the team’s quarterbacks coach under Harbaugh, is indeed familiar with the ins and outs of Kaepernick since he’s worked with him the past four years. That familiarity is a positive in the sense that there will be some continuity as far as terminology and building blocks on offense.
The real question is though, after two and a half years of Kaepernick being the starter, how will his play differ from what we’ve seen previously?
If you’re looking for clues into what the new attack might resemble, look no further that what the team’s game plan was during the playoffs in 2012 and 2013.
The postseason was the only time Harbaugh appeared willing to to completely take the chains off of Kaepernick and let him use his legs as much as his arm.
In six playoffs starts, Kaepernick has averaged 84 yards rushing a game and scored four touchdowns. Compare that to the regular season where he averages 37 yards rushing a game and has 10 touchdowns in 39 starts.
Looking deeper, Kaepernick has eclipsed 100 yards on the ground twice in six games in the postseason, while he’s only accomplished that feat once during the regular campaign.
Letting Kaepernick use his legs had a ripple effect on the entire offense, and seemed to open things up for everyone. In terms of passing in those six playoff games, Kaepernick averaged 229 yards a contest, compared to his in season average of 210.
On the ground, Frank Gore was still able to average just over 80 yards rushing in those games, and scored five touchdowns. His regular rushing season average under Jim Harbaugh was 73 yards a game. He only scored five total touchdowns in all of 2014.
Now opening things up like this does expose Kaepernick to more hits, which increases the likelihood of him getting injured. But keep in mind that Kaepernick is 6-foot-4 and weighs 230 pounds, and that size will help him absorb more punishment than someone of smaller stature (i.e. Robert Griffin) would be able too.
Kaepernick would also have to run smarter, sliding and going out of bounds when necessary.
There’s no guarantee that the 49ers will go this route, but given what the front office and coaching staff have alluded to, it appears they will at least employ a similar philosophy.
For everyone involved, they must also hope it provides similar results to what was seen on offense during the postseason, and not the sputtering unit that struggled for much of the past two years.
Photo: Getty Images
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