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09 Dec 2014

Any Given Sunday: Raiders Over 49ers

by Andrew Healy

The great sports movie characters follow similar trajectories. Norman Dale. Willie Beamen. Ricky Bobby. Get to the top, fall all the way to the bottom, then recover back to the heights. In real sports, that trip is much harder to pull off. The Kurt Warner story is rare. Players and coaches who hit bottom usually stay on the floor.

Colin Kaepernick's performance this year puts him close to a zone that great quarterbacks almost never enter. With Sunday's performance (18-of-33 for 174 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 2.45 ANY/A) against Oakland's 30th-ranked defense, Kaepernick's DVOA for the season fell to -10.1%. After ranking third in DVOA in his first half-season in 2012 and seventh last year, Kaepernick is now the 29th-best quarterback in football. Last year, Kaepernick was sandwiched between Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson in the rankings. This year, he's keeping company with Mark Sanchez and Austin Davis.

Kaepernick's very bad day against the Raiders showcased the biggest difference between his play this year and that of his first two seasons. Kaepernick completed just two of his nine deep throws for 42 yards, with an interception on the game's first offensive play. That futility on throws traveling more than 15 yards through the air has plagued the 49ers' passing game this entire season.

Colin Kaepernick's Exotic Journey From Ryan To Vick
Y/A on
Deep Throws
Y/A on
Short Throws
Sack Rate
2012 Kaepernick 12.50 5.36 6.5%
Rest of League 10.72 5.01 6.0%
2013 Kaepernick 10.86 5.14 7.4%
Rest of League 10.47 5.03 6.2%
2014 Kaepernick 8.95 5.25 9.2%
Rest of League 11.46 5.34 6.0%

In his first season, Kaepernick was in the stratosphere as a deep thrower with Matt Ryan his closest comparison in yards per attempt on deep throws. Last year, Kaepernick was still a little above average. This year, only four teams (Vikings, Dolphins, Jets, and Raiders) throw for fewer yards per attempt on deep passes than the 49ers. Kaepernick's closest comparison in yards per attempt this year is Michael Vick. In just two years, Kaepernick has completed a strange, exotic journey from Ryan to Vick.

Kaepernick's own play obviously isn't the only reason the 49ers' deep passing game has fallen off so dramatically. The offensive line's play is not at its previous levels, which accounts in part for the increase in sack rate. As Bill Barnwell noted on Grantland, Michael Crabtree has not performed up to his earlier level of performance. Crabtree's decline hits Kaepernick harder than it would have his predecessor, as Alex Smith threw a higher share of passes to Vernon Davis.

But it's a little tricky to blame Kaepernick's declining play on the receiving corps, given the state of that unit in the previous two mostly successful seasons for the 49ers' passing game. In 2012, Crabtree was healthy, but Mario Manningham was second on the team in catches. Last year, the 49ers added Anquan Boldin, but Crabtree missed most of the season. This year, they have Crabtree, Boldin, Stevie Johnson, and Davis. It seems hard to argue that Kaepernick's targets are worse this year than in the previous two. Assigning responsibility for the 49ers' passing woes this season is very inexact, given the impossibility of separating the quarterback from his teammates. To me, it seems difficult to argue that most of the blame should be laid anywhere other than on Kaepernick himself.

For a team that less than two years ago seemed so set at football's two essential positions -- head coach and quarterback -- the 49ers' future at both spots is surprisngly uncertain. Jim Harbaugh has some Norman Dale-esque qualities as a wondercoach with questionable fashion sense who's a spoonful of competitiveness away from complete insanity. Like Dale's comeback at Hickory High, it also seems exceedingly likely that Harbaugh will have a successful second act after wearing his welcome thin in San Francisco. Almost no coach consistently gets subtle things right the way Harbaugh does. In Week 12 against Washington, he stole three points that no other coach, not even the hoodie, would have taken. The 49ers would be hard-pressed to replace Harbaugh with a coach nearly as good.

Would Kaepernick be as difficult to replace? There are two parts to that question, one about finding another quarterback and the other about how good Kaepernick is likely to be going forward. We can get some insights into the latter issue by looking at how quarterbacks have performed over their entire careers according to their first three years. At first glance, this doesn't look too bad for Kaepernick. Across all quarterbacks over the last 25 years, each of the first three seasons is about equally predictive of career success. However, Kaepernick has an unusual career trajectory so far, and quarterbacks like him don't really project all that well.

Quarterbacks with Year 3 DVOA at least 10 points lower than their average DVOA in Years 1 and 2 usually end up looking a lot more like their Year 3 selves than they Year 1 or Year 2 versions. For these early-career fallers, Year 3 predicts career performance (average DVOA across years, weighted by attempts) twice as strongly as Year 2 and about four times as strongly as Year 1. Using a linear regression, I found that a quarterback who had a DVOA of 30% in Year 1 and 0% in Years 2 and 3 would be predicted to have a DVOA of about 3.3% for his career. On the other hand, a quarterback who had a DVOA of 0% in Years 1 and 2 and 30% in Year 3 would have a predicted DVOA of 13.1%. The players who fell at least 10% from their Year 1/2 average then end up coming much closer to their Year 3 performance than their earlier and better selves.

Quarterbacks with Big Performance Drops from Years 1-2 To Year 3
Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Avg Career
Ben Roethlisberger 31.7% 35.8% 8.2% 16.3%
Trent Green -5.9% 28.6% -5.3% 15.2%
Daunte Culpepper 30.1% 4.2% -0.5% 10.4%
Elvis Grbac 38.3% -7.5% 5.1% 7.6%
Brian Griese -0.6% 34.7% -4.2% 4.1%
Ty Detmer 10.2% -3.8% -12.5% 1.6%
Damon Huard -1.8% 24.3% -16.6% -0.2%
Jake Plummer -17.7% -8.4% -26.5% -1.5%
Jon Kitna -10.0% 6.6% -13.7% -2.0%
Kerry Collins -23.8% 17.5% -26.0% -2.3%
Jason Campbell -1.1% 0.4% -12.2% -2.6%
Charlie Batch 4.9% 6.5% -14.8% -3.0%
Tim Rattay 30.6% -18.2% -30.1% -5.8%
Rob Johnson 10.9% 4.4% -24.9% -6.9%
Kelly Holcomb 8.5% -3.7% -18.0% -7.0%
Kordell Stewart 4.9% -20.4% -31.4% -9.7%
Patrick Ramsey -9.3% -7.0% -21.8% -12.4%
David Klingler -34.4% -16.8% -37.1% -26.3%
Heath Shuler -18.8% -28.7% -51.6% -32.5%

The best-case scenario in the table is Ben Roethlisberger, but Big Ben outperformed Kaepernick in every season. And even for Big Ben, Year 3 predicted his future more accurately than Years 1 or 2. His average DVOA from 2007-13 of 16.7% comes closer to his 8.2% in 2006 than his 31.7% and 35.8% in his first two years, a level he has not attained since (though he came close in 2010).

Kaepernick's trajectory isn't really like anyone before him. His trend is most similar to Charlie Batch. And, to be very clear, I am not saying Colin Kaepernick is Charlie Batch. He would be a Money-Bin-Swimming, Super-Rich Man's Charlie Batch. Still, Batch was not bad in his first two years before falling to -14.8% in Year 3, not too far off where Kaepernick is now. Batch would go 0-9 with the Lions in his fourth year and then never start more than two games again. Kaepernick will almost surely accumulate more starts than Batch and have a better career, but if Kaepernick ends 2014 at his current level, my regression formula projects his career DVOA to be just 4.7%. That would make Brian Griese the closest comp in terms of career performance.

So Colin Kaepernick's recent struggles suggest that we are more likely to see Year 3 Kaepernick going forward and not Year 1/2 Kaepernick. It's certainly not written in stone, but it has been a red flag for quarterbacks to get worse in their early years. For a team that looked ready to contend for years, the future is suddenly not so bright in San Francisco. It's not just the injuries this year. Their coach may succeed again, but is likely to do so elsewhere. And their quarterback will be bucking the trend if he establishes himself as an elite quarterback in the long term after struggling mightily in Year 3.

Move Over Fridge, There's a New Sheriff in Town

While Kaepernick's poor play is the most important takeaway from the game, the Raiders offense actually had the biggest day according to the DVOA.

OAK 41.9% -13.6% 5.0% 60.5%
SF -24.7% 41.2% 3.6% -62.3%

OAK 33.6% -20.8% 5.0% 59.4%
SF -11.6% 21.7% 3.6% -29.8%

To find the reasons for Oakland's breakout on offense, we could look at Derek Carr's best day as a pro by a substantial margin. Or we could turn to Aldon Smith's very inconsistent motor and continuing limited impact for the 49ers on defense. I could then argue that we would want to be pretty cautious before getting all excited about Carr given the poor performances preceding Sunday, or that Smith's doldrums are legitimately worrying at this point, but does any of that matter when Donald Penn makes NFL history?

That is a 6-foot-4, 340-pound man making a touchdown catch on a ball near his shin. Using Pro-Football-Reference data, I have this as putting Donald Penn alone in first place for touchdown receptions for players at Fridge weight (335 pounds or higher). This is very unofficial since PFR weights aren't always right (Penn himself is 340 on ESPN.com but only a ludicrous 305 on PFR, but according to my calculations Penn passed Jonathan Ogden, who was also 340 and had two career touchdown catches. Penn also pulled even with the Fridge with three total regular-season touchdowns.

Donald Penn might now be the greatest super-fat offensive machine in NFL history. Ogden gets ruled out right away for having only 2 career yards and the wrong body shape (an athletic 6-foot-9). The Fridge had an additional touchdown in the Super Bowl, but only 9 career yards. Donald Penn, on the other hand, has the Humpty-Dumpty shape and three touchdowns, along with a 15-yard catch and now 22 lifetime yards to his name. Ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration: Donald Penn for best super-fat offensive threat ever.

Posted by: Andrew Healy on 09 Dec 2014

45 comments, Last at 12 Dec 2014, 10:24am by dmstorm22


by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:12pm

Kaepernick's trajectory isn't really like anyone before him.

Maybe not someone before him, but certainly like someone after him (in draft chronology):

2012: 25.8%, 19.7%
2013: 16.6%, 15.6%
2014: -6.8%, -4.4% (before week 14)

It's uncanny how his numbers line up with Wilson's. Admittedly, he has since dropped to below -10% and Wilson's will go up, but before Sunday, no one would have said that Wilson is struggling as much as Kaepernick. It would be useful to see why those quarterbacks declined.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:27pm

Wilson and Kaepernick started out as running quarterbacks with limited passing duties. They have declined for the same reason Big Ben did: A few injuries and personnel changes, plus a heaping helping of Actual Quarterback Responsibilities.

AQR include things like making throws to your second or third read, accurately throwing passes in the intermediate range from the pocket on a reliable basis, and diagnosing coverages and blitzes.

None of those things are things Kaepernick is good at. Wilson seems to get a pass, but his problem is more clearly related to a lack of offensive talent past Marshawn Lynch, while Kaepernick's receiving talent has been pretty good: Boldin is awesome, Vernon Davis is at least a good player, and Crabtree... well, okay, Crabtree is a decent #3 option, right?

Actual Quarterback Responsibilities are difficult things. There comes a time in every quarterback's life when they are expected to actually go win a game, rather than hanging around with cool football players and Not Losing.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:11pm

Davis has been really, really bad this year. My opinion is that he's struggling with an injured back because he just doesn't look like himself (this is after a leg injury earlier in the year when the niners ran out of tight ends for a few weeks).

And he's had been the niners most important weapon for a few years now. The niners' offensive DVOA, both run and pass, drops off a cliff when he's out because he's vital to the run blocking and is the only viable deep threat. He's always been a bit of an of one at tight end, he's poor at the tight endy stuff like posting up a linebacker or settling into a hole in the zone but is a terrifying, if inconsistent, deep threat.

And he's been terribly this year but that's probably because he's hurt.

Crabtree hadn't been quite the same since tearing his ACL either and while Boldin does some things really well there's no one with the speed or the hops to win downfield. This means the run game faces more loaded fronts and struggles, then the pass game finds itself in long yardage that it doesn't have the told to convert.

And the line has been a real mess.

To sum up, I think putting all of this on Kaepernick is pretty dumb.

Plus the playcalling/passing scheme etc. Kap has regressed over the last month but the dumpster fire extends beyond him ie why is Gore averaging 3.9 ypc?

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:39pm

I don't think Crabtree is meaningfully better or worse since tearing the ACL. I think he's Michael Crabtree. He's okay against soft coverage but disappears when someone decent plays him tight because he's no good at fighting for the ball. He's the opposite of Boldin, who couldn't separate fighting toddlers but catches everything remotely possible.

Both of them are apparently better than Stevie Johnson. That is not saying nothing.

Sort of agree that Davis injuries are important.

Point is, it isn't like the personnel has gotten drastically worse since Kaep's first season. He's just asked to do more with them, and he has failed. His protection issues are a problem, but the S.F. line is still better than a lot of units in the NFL, and would look better if Kaepernick moved around in the pocket instead of executing surprise rollouts at the first sight of an opposing jersey.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:56pm

Johnson is another weird one, he runs really unusual routes that sometimes sorting him comically wide open but also make it hard for the qb to know exactly where he's going to be. Peyton would hate him. He was really good early in the year but then missed time with some mystery illness and hadn't been the same since.

I'm not trying to suggest that Kap isn't part of the problem, his footwork is awful. He gets away with that awful footwork more than the vast majority of qbs or he did until recently. He was showing progress in climbing the pocket and avoiding pressure but after Kilgore went out he doesn't seem to trust the interior protection and then you see the 'Bambi-on-ice' routine.

I think he needs to spend January to May shuffling around in a Peyton Manning impersonation instead of working on his forty time.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 4:39pm

Johnson is another weird one, he runs really unusual routes that sometimes sorting him comically wide open but also make it hard for the qb to know exactly where he's going to be.

Well that's just bizarre. How can that happen? If he's freelancing his routes surely the coaching staff would let him know about it, and if he isn't Kaepernick should know where he's going to be.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 5:17pm

He often tries to completely fake out the defender in man coverage instead of trying to make every route look the same to avoid tipping off the route. Sometimes it looks brilliant and the corner nearly falls over, sometimes he just throws all the timing off as his man doesn't bite.

This is why he's had great games against guys like Sherman and Revis, their usual honed technique isn't designed for his eccentric approach but it also led to some picks in Buffalo, one of the reasons they were willing to move on from him.

He's almost the Kaepernick of WRs, unconventional and mercurial.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 5:47pm

All right, that makes more sense. Seems like he wouldn't be very good as a first or second read, and you'd need to give him time to fake out his man and see him open before you throw him the ball. Come to think of it, he sounds like he'd be useful in Seattle given Wilson's playing style.

by Sixknots :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 10:46pm

Nah. Wilson has developed some throw-it-to-where-the-receiver-will-be rapport with the Hawks receivers. Now if see-it-throw-it Jackson has to come in for Wilson...

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 4:02pm

Point is, it isn't like the personnel has gotten drastically worse since Kaep's first season.

I'd say his line has definitely gotten drastically worse. It's not just the backup RT and the rookie UDFA at center, but that Boone and Staley have suddenly gotten bad. Iupati was never a great pass blocker, but even his run blocking has taken a hit.

His tight ends have gotten much worse. His main running back is over 30. His WRs have gotten a lot better, which might help compensate if he could move like Fran Tarkenton or Russel Wilson. But no guy that tall is going to move that way.

by beargoggles :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 1:07am

This. While the pass weapons are better in theory, Davis for one reason or another is clearly not himself. And he doesn't have the skills (read: hands, probably also routes) to be a possession receiver. Which means they have no deep threats. Crabtree I can explain less well. Boldin can still catch anything with no space in a way I'm not sure I've ever seen any receiver do before, but with such a lousy deep game and a collapsing O-line, it's not enough.

I think your theory in the other thread about Kaep being like a "giraffe" is a good one. He doesn't have the quick release, or really do anything quick. So if he's pressured, he falls apart. His upside with good protection and a whole field to throw to remains high, but that's a tough situation to come by. That Kordell Stewart comp scares the bejeesus out of me.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 2:01pm

I'd make one more point on this; what's Kaepernick's best asset as a passer? His arm strength right? That he can make any throw and force the defense to cover the entire field.

To take best advantage of this you'd need receivers with either great speed or the ability to go up for the ball like Fitzgerald or Marshall. Ideally somebody with both of those things.

The only received who can break a 4.6 is Bruce Ellington and the tallest guy is Stevie Johnson at 6'2", who isn't really a jump ball threat at all. They've put together an offense that takes the least account of Kap's skillset, especially as they've ditched the read option.

Look at the Ravens, Flacco isn't perfect but they take advantage of his big arm with some really quick receivers and it helps him, the run game and the team. The niners don't do that at all.

by beargoggles :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 3:03pm

Exactly. No deep passes, and no read-option= worst possible use of his skill set.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 3:30pm

No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...No read option and nowt deep makes Kap a dull boy...

by jtr :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:30pm

Just look at how Griffin III has been completely crushed under the weight of AQR when his reps and athleticism were limited by injuries. The guy was the most exciting superstar in the NFL when all he had to do was run option plays and pass to the wide open guy when the whole defense fell for play action. Now that he has to do real quarterback things, he has no idea how many steps to take in his drop, where he's supposed to be in the pocket, or even which side of the field he's supposed to be looking at.

It does put Griffin's precipitous decline in perspective, seeing Wilson and Kaep both struggle to adapt to AQR even though they've gotten every game+practice rep and kept their game-breaking speed. Gotta think that in some alternate universe where Snyder/Shanahan/FedEx Field don't put Griffin through the wringer, we'd right now be wondering why Griffin wasn't playing as well in year 3 as he had for his two previous electric seasons.

by Andrew Healy :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 4:25pm

This is a great point. Wilson's actually up into positive territory now (+1.5%) after Sunday, but that's still a close comp. Wilson does have (and has had) less to work with at receiver and a generally inferior line over their careers so far.

Also, by ANY/A, Kaepernick is even further behind Wilson:
Kaepernick: 7.55 (2012), 6.65 (2013), 5.55 (2014)
Wilson: 7.01, 7.10, 6.57

This is all changing week to week, but I think it's likely that the Wilson-to-Kaepernick numbers gap either doesn't close or gets wider.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 4:44pm

I do think a further study of Wilson would be nice, maybe in the offseason.

His drop hasn't been drastic, and if anything he's become a bigger threat on the ground, but there is a dropoff in his stats, regular and advanced.

Some of it is o-line play and weapons, but I would love an analysis of where he's gotten worse, and where he's gotten better, since his rookie season.

by jeffd :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 4:54pm

I'd be interested to see you guys break down what's going on with those two. The popular perception seems to be that Kaepernick is regressing while Wilson is well on his way to being one of the top QBs in the league. Yet statistically they don't look very different. What's going on?

Some possibilities:
- Kaepernick plays with an altogether better supporting cast (better receivers, arguably a better line). The Seahawks offense is Wilson, Lynch, and a bunch of bodies.
- Seahawks are hot; winning fixes everything. Plus they won a Super Bowl last year, whereas Kaep and the niners came up short.

I've watched all but one Seahawks game this year and my impression is that while Wilson has had accuracy issues at times, the main problem is that the offensive line is dreadful. There have been games where he's under pressure before the ball gets into his hands. When he has time (usually because of his magic scrambling, occasionally because of freak offensive line events) he tends to play well. In contrast I've only seen Kaepernick in like a game and a half, but he hasn't looked good in those games.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 5:49pm

I've watched all but one Seahawks game this year and my impression is that while Wilson has had accuracy issues at times, the main problem is that the offensive line is dreadful.

I've been told that the Niners' offensive line is dreadful too, but there's one significant difference: Seattle's OL has been penalized for 219 yards compared to 98 yards for SF. Not only has it taken several TDs off the board, it has led to Seattle needing 0.2 more yards to get a first down on both second and third down, despite picking up 0.8 more yards on first and second down.

Now, the penalty yardage disparity was present last year too, to a slightly lesser degree (295 to 195, and both teams played 19 games), but the yards to go disparity wasn't (in fact it was flipped). One reason is that the frequency of Seattle's opponents jumping offsides has been cut in half, while it ticked up slightly for San Francisco. Perhaps opponents aren't getting tricked by Wilson's cadence as much.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 6:02pm

"Perhaps opponents aren't getting tricked by Wilson's cadence as much."

It's probably that they've only played Ahmad Brooks once this year.

by coremill :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 7:26pm

The biggest difference I see between them this year is that Seattle has a successful rushing offense and SF does not. Seattle is 1st in Rushing DVOA, SF is 19th. That both creates easier down/distance situations for Wilson and opens up the play-action game. Of course, much of Seattle's rushing success comes from Wilson himself.

One of the big mysteries of the 49ers season is why Kaepernick has stopped running. Through five weeks he was averaging nine carries per game. Since then he is averaging only 5 carries per game. He hasn't had more than 37 yards rushing since Week 4, and he hasn't had more than 26 yards rushing since Week 6. SF has almost completely abandoned the read-option; they call one or two designed QB runs per game, and the rest are scrambles. But Kaep hasn't shown the speed and elusiveness he had the last two years. He has negative rushing DYAR this year.

by beargoggles :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 1:00am

This is strange. Maybe's he's in that no-man's land where he's trying to get beyond being a running quarterback, not doing it well, and forgoing what he's best at.

He still looks explosive. He had a couple of scrambles up the middle on Sunday where he hit a scary gear, not just getting a first down but running past people for more. It's essential that this be part of his game if he can't develop the other things.

by ammek :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:16pm

Perhaps I'm being grouchy here, but this write-up doesn't tell me anything about the game Sunday. In fact, it reads as though the writer didn't see the game Sunday.

The box comparing QBs' first three years is very misleading. Tim Rattay, for example, threw 46 passes in his first three years in the NFL (which have been discounted). In his fourth year – the first year in the table – he had 125 dropbacks, and in his sixth (third) year just 107. That's a much smaller workload than Kaepernick's. I would be reluctant to read anything at all into those numbers. You are not comparing like with like. FO usually avoids mangling stats like this; that's why I read it.

Oh, and I don't find it *that* amusing when a lineman catches a touchdown.

by reiniroosh :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:26pm

The cherry on top for the lineman touchdown was the sweet lick laid on him by the safety. (#35 Eric Reid I think?)
Great leverage, really delivered a pop, and sent the lineman sprawling backwards.
He was just soooo massive, and showed great body control to spin, and carried into the end zone. (NFL Highlight name = "Size Matters")
So it had all these great football elements: mass, velocity, angles, rules of eligibility, breaking the end zone plane, trickery...

by Andrew Healy :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:50pm

Meant to note that Years 1-3 are the first three years with at least 100 attempts. And with AGS, we're trying to get predictive with what happened in the game so hitting a balance between that and describing what happened. Thanks for the feedback.

by reiniroosh :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:22pm

I noticed that the turf was really bad that game, and everyone was slippping.
That really impacted the pass rush.
arr would stand there for a long time and then complete the pass.
Kaepernick would run around like crazy. He could have just stood there, and maybe shuffled, and had a lot of time as well, but did not.
His main issue seems to be the one FO outlined in the great Bridgewater/Kaepernick article a little while back.

by BJR :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:35pm

Could you not have gotten Raiderjoe to guest write this article?

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 9:28pm

RJ won't sober up until the draft. Wish I'd bought some Sierra-Nevada stock on Friday.

by twoblackboxes :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:52pm

"In just two years, Kaepernick has completed a strange, exotic journey from Ryan to Vick."

I thought this was a Seinfeld reference at first, but now I'm thinking no...

by Andrew Healy :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:55pm

Of course this was a Seinfeld reference! If that ended up in there by accident, that would be one crazy coincidence. Ryan to Vick kind of sounds like Milan to Minsk.

by dank067 :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 2:54pm

The 15 yard Donald Penn reception from 2009 includes about 20 YAC, and is glorious:


by ChicagoRaider :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:09pm

Has anyone given Donald Penn any rushing opportunities yet? Perhaps there are some unexplored dimensions waiting to be seen here? Hand the ball to him as the a fullback?

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:44pm

He can't be worse than McFadden and Jones-Drew have been so far this year. I was a huge McFadden booster back in the day, but unfortunately time and injuries have sapped what was once a pretty amazing talent. Same for MJD really.

Running a lot of shotgun with Donald Penn on blitz pickup and draw plays would be a fun offense.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 4:39pm

Derek Carr looks like areal NFL quarterback from the sideline shot when they are showing a play. Then, between plays, they do a closeup shot, and you realize that it's just the lead singer from My Chemical Romance.

He needs to cut down on the eyeliner and either lose or grow out the soupcatcher if he wants to succeed in football.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 4:40pm

Good thing Raiders are out of the playoffs. Carr can return to Shameless, playing Jimmy. Or was it Steve?

by Tim R :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 5:02pm

Does jared lorenzen not count as super fat or a threat?

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 7:12pm

Well, seeing as how he never ran or threw for a TD in the NFL, he's clearly not a challenger to Penn.

by greybeard :: Tue, 12/09/2014 - 5:45pm

Kaep was not very good if you take away the 30 and 50 yard runs that he used to have before. And that is what NFL defenses did.
He is though still the most exciting thrower in the NFL. He would have a good 10-15 incredible throws a year that no other QB can make. This is -I think- what made him so exciting (especially after Alex Smith) to the 49ers fan. Turns out there is more to being good QB than throwing those beauties.

by Mikey Benny :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 11:59am

I take very odd comfort in seeing Kaepernick struggle and it has little to do with Kaepernick. Something really rubbed me the wrong way about how Alex Smith was pushed out with Kaep being handed the starting job.

by pigskin.lover :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 3:28pm

I think one huge key not mentioned above is putting years 1 & 2 with a running game and year 3 without. Very few QBs in the NFL can function very well without a decent one. Whether blame is on the lack of passing game, lack of running the ball, or a regression in running game, I still would vote it is important to note the running game was much different in all three years.


by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 4:21pm

First, Kaepernick himself is responsible for a large whack of that. I know there are other things like penalties, but if you subtract out his share of runs from the total DVOA you get 0.4% rush DVOA in 2013 and -5.1% in 2014, which is a bit closer.

Second, it works both ways. It's true that a worse run game can make the defense not get fooled by play action, but it's also true that a worse QB can make the defense not respect the passing game and allows them to stack the box.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 6:35pm

Many QBs can and have. Other than maybe Tom Brady (and he has a bad run game by DVOA this year), all of the Rodgers/Brees/Manning(s)/Luck/Roethlibserger/Rivers have had years with lousy run games, and they've done just fine for the most part.

Far bigger issue is the pass protection has gotten a lot worse, and teams have adjusted to the SF Play-Action game which was so devastating in 2012.

by pigskin.lover :: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 8:47am

I see your points, Perfundle, but on dmstorm22's comment about SF Play-Action, the same with the Redskins, without a run game, play action success is dependent upon a run game. Further, they have changed their personnel quite a bit from the heavy sets with an extra OL, extra TEs, etc. They have gone with 3WRs much more (observation, not statistical, but I'm willing to go out on that limb). With more WR sets, especially in shotgun, they seem to have a lot less success and give up some of the unpredictable with the play action. Last year, they came out last in the league in 3+ WR sets. I suspect this will not be the case this year.

Concur on the pass pro. I wonder how much of it is set by Kap and how much are line calls. Despite who sets up the protection, stunts have found a good deal of success against the 49ers.

People have said a lot about Crabtree not having a good year. Another note of mention is his lack of YAC. Last year, he made a living of turning a X yard catch into a X+ yard gain. Instead of a leap after time back from the achilles issue, it has been a step back (2012 - 6.4, 2013 - 7.5, 2014 - 4.0).

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 12/12/2014 - 10:24am

PA success is probably more dependent on having a QB and an o-line that can sell it. Peyton's PA game was great despite having bad to lousy run games from 2008-2010.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 12/10/2014 - 3:53pm

Including Rothlisberger is a little disingenuous, since his offseason included a life-endangering motorcycle crash before that rough third year.