As a lifelong 49'ers fan who had the pleasure of growing up in the heyday, I expected they would prevail Sunday. I've been calling Jim Harbaugh the next great pro coach since his second season at Stanford, I was confident once the 49'ers hired him he'd return them to glory; so I had a quiet confidence that they'd play their best and win in the bro-bowl. The fact they didn't has been beyond painful, however its been even more so because the manner of how they lost and in what it demonstrated about their most important player going forward. Let me explain.
Everybody is talking about the play calling, particularly at the end of the game. A few less are chaulking up the loss to a tight team that made uncharacteristic mistakes along the way (special teams TD, a noticeable tight team at the start). Both of those are very much true, and together explain the loss succintly. However the most painful for me was how uncool Colin Kaepernick was in the most important spots in the game, demonstrating very clearly that he lacks the essence of great winning QB's. Let me elaborate.
Colin Kaepernick is a next gen, football star, in a similar mold to the new breed of QB's (such as Cam Newton, RG3 & Russell Wilson) who are true dual-threats with great running abilities, big arms and are lighting up NFL scoreboards (and fantasy leagues too). There's no question in my mind that Kaepernick will be a stats star, win lots of games and lead the 49'ers to super bowl contention annually for as long as his body and Harbaugh's presence & fire remain. However you can take several plays from the Super Bowl, from both halves, where Kaepernick didn't have the control of the team or maintain his own demeanor that cost the team dearly. In some instances you can't quantify what was lost but you know his jittery throws and lack of play clock awareness kept his teammates anxious, other times its easy to quantify:
- 2 timeouts lost b/c his play clock issues; one in the 2nd quarter and the most damning on the final drive on 2nd & goal from the 5, which also negated the best goalline play call;
- Terrible Decision Making -
- 2nd Down from the 5, Goal to Go - Kaepernick rolls right, there's no pressure b/c the defense is blanketing the receivers, he gets anxious and throws the ball away. Even Tom Brady tucks it for a couple of yards 2 or 3 yard line, I think Kaep could have potentially scored there, but even 3 yards changes the 3rd & 4th down play calls. Instead he threw the down away, literally.
- 3rd & 4th Downs from the 5, Goal to Go - These were essentially the same play, Kaepernick had options but the Ravens blitzed him up the middle, he didn't have the instincts to a) hold on until one of the TE's got space or b) make a play with his feet; instead he chose to throw weak floaters out of bounds in Crabtree's direction. Neither play had any chance.
Let me stress that I think Kaepernick is still on the right trajectory to be a great QB. Just like Peyton Manning or Dan Marino in their respective days, he can become a hall of famer with hard work, injury free long career, good coaching and teammates. However just like those two he's shown that he doesn't have the clutch, I can make the plays to overcome my teammates mistakes to win this big game. Tom Brady & Joe Montana NEVER got flustered in big games, both stayed even keel in success or failure, which allowed them to be special in the most stressful situations. They didn't win everytime but they always gave their teams great opportunities and never were the cause of a loss. Unfortunately that can't be said of Kaepernick...