A few days before the NFC Championship Game, San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana gave an interview to USA Today Sports where he spoke about a number of different topics. One of the topics he touched on was the play of current 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In short, Montana did not have many good things to say about Kaepernick and his play as a quarterback.
What Montana specifically mentioned and criticized was the fact that Kaepernick was not a polished quarterback throwing the football from the pocket and that he needed to get better at throwing with pressure coming at him when in the pocket. Reading these comments a few days before such a big game for the 49ers was clearly somewhat puzzling given the timing. In an interview Terry Bradshaw had with Kaepernick that was shown on the FOX pre-game show, he actually told Kaepernick not to worry about what Montana had said in the USA Today Sports interview.
It goes without saying that anyone who has seen and watched a significant amount of the games played by the 49ers this past season will no doubt agree with the assessment that Kaepernick is far from a polished pocket passer. In addition, we can agree that he needs to work on progressing beyond just his first or second reads while he also needs to at times know when to throw changeups and not just purely fastballs with his passes. But using Montana’s comments as a basis, it feels like a number of things mentioned and discussed about his pocket presence and his play as a pocket passer has lacked some proper perspective.
Now yes, Kaepernick is far from being a polished pocket passer like say Andrew Luck, but does that mean that Kaepernick can’t develop into becoming an above average pocket passer and do a better job of passing with pressure? Not at all as we must remember that when drafted, Kaepernick came in with a certain skill-set. The team knew it would take time to develop those skills he was not strong in like being a dangerous pocket passer. Then again with few exceptions, what quarterbacks have in the last three decades come in as polished pocket passers? The answer can probably be counted on one hand.
Now if Kaepernick were in his say eighth season or so as a starting quarterback in the NFL and still had the issues of being an adequate to above average pocket passer, then we could question whether or not to expect him to ever develop the skills necessary to be the polished pocket passer needed to win it all. But remember, he has just completed his first full season as a starting quarterback and has less than 30 games as a starter in his just completed third season. Therefore, one must understand that he is still learning how to play the position, and one must assume that he will learn and develop as a pocket passer over time — something Terry Bradshaw told him he would in their interview.
We all remember what Steve Young eventually became which is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and a Hall of Famer. But what many forget is that early in his career, Young was not a polished pocket passer and was at times more comfortable throwing out of the pocket as opposed to in it. I am not saying that Kaepernick will become what Young eventually became, but what we do need to do is have some perspective and give Kaepernick the chance to develop into being a polished pocket passer before chastising him for his lack of being finished product that some unfairly expect him to be at this point.