A Look at the Tape: Kaepernick’s Play Obliterates Perception

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The quarterback position is held to a gold standard in the NFL. While a defensive end can make a variety of mistakes without much notice from NFL audiences, a faulty play-action or misread can condemn an NFL signal caller.

Unfortunately, Colin Kaepernick has been a victim of this. Many analysts claim he has no place between the sidelines of a football field. However, the qualities of his play are on the contrary. Kaepernick’s tape shows he is an effective and unique NFL quarterback.

Critics will give you a plethora of reasons to believe their anti-Kaepernick rhetoric. Here’s one of them:

“Kaepernick is just a one-read quarterback.”

This claim is false. Kaepernick frequently makes two reads or more. He also shows the ability to look off safeties, a crucial attribute of any NFL starter. In week six of 2016, Kaepernick returned to the starting role against Buffalo. Any naysayer who wants to bat down Kaepernick’s field vision needs to look at this tape.

Kaepernick makes three reads. He drops back, looks right, middle, and then left. He comes back to his second read – a slashing Quinton Patton – in a beautiful sequence. Kaepernick had to adjust his eyes four different times on this play before hitting a big completion.

Kaepernick also uses his eyes to look off safeties. See Week 11 vs. New England.


On this play, #7 keeps his eyes downfield to keep Patriots S Duron Harmon stagnant between the hashmarks. This subtle glance gives RB Shaun Draughn, who is running a wheel route, space on the right side. Harmon ranges over play side but by the time he arrives, the pass is complete for a 25-yard gain. This tape does not show us a one-read quarterback.

Here’s another gem:

“Kaepernick is a one-system, running-only quarterback.”

Also false. Kaepernick has the arm talent to fit into any system. He may have a completion percentage of 59.1% the past two seasons, but consider that the 49ers coaching staff has been anything but stable of late. Additionally, the roster was constantly in shambles. He still managed a TD/INT ratio of 16:4.

Also consider that he regularly makes throws like this one from the Saints game last year: an absolute laser to his tight end Brent Celek. Kaepernick is able to stand tall in the pocket and make accurate throws downfield with consistency.


Kaepernick can also make throws into tight space. He doesn’t even hesitate when he sees small openings. On the play below, he hits a cutting Vance McDonald on an out route, just past the outstretched hand of a defender. Kaepernick displays the arm strength and the confidence to throw the ball through narrow windows.


Kaepernick’s game stat line: 24/39 for 398 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

As Kaepernick is a great runner, he has shouldered a common generality about such types of quarterbacks:

“When he scrambles, he doesn’t keep his eyes downfield.”

This statement is wrong. Kaepernick uses his elusiveness and athleticism to escape pressure and make impressive throws.

For example, this next play illustrates how impressive Kaepernick can be throwing on the move. It is one of the most impressive plays I saw from any quarterback last season. Kaepernick evades pressure, scrambles to his left, and makes an amazing off-balance throw down the middle of the field for a first down.


There are only two other signal-callers who can consistently make that throw, and one of them plays in Seattle. The other is Aaron Rodgers.

Speaking of quarterbacks who play in Seattle, Kaepernick could become one. Head Coach Pete Carroll said as much on 710 ESPN Seattle last week. His play is ideally suited for the Seahawks offense, and he would be a perfect backup for Russell Wilson. On the aforementioned play, Kaepernick used play-action to draw the defense to his right. His use of read-option and play-action is a constant on his tape. The offense would not change a lick if Wilson had to come out of a game.

Whether or not Kaepernick lands in Seattle, his talent is being truly underestimated. Even though he isn’t meeting the gold standard of many quarterback evaluations, it wasn’t long ago that Seattle fans feared the former Nevada star’s playmaking abilities.

Wherever he goes, his critics will follow. But with his talent, he will continue to prove them wrong.

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