Thursday, January 31, 2013

Agree or Not, Colin Kaepernick Looks Super for Near Future


Who knows what will happen on Sunday at the Superdome to add to a challenging week for Colin Kaepernick. It’s the biggest week for the 25-year-old man, a moment that he can prove that he’s tried, true and tested to handle the demands as a burgeoning quarterback. In a few days the man with the goatee and tattoos will step out of the tunnel to take on the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. His voice is heard in a room of fiery and raucous teammates.

He is a kid from an adoptive family — a good human being — the household name and the ultimate hero for the San Francisco 49ers since taking over at QB position. They believe it gives them a chance to win. They believe Kaepernick fits the read-option that Aaron Rodgers calls likely a fad. They believe the decision was made because of his excellent blend of height and throwing mechanics. They believe he’s far more efficient with his arm strength and flashes of elite accuracy, a flame-throwing quarterback who adds danger to the Niners offense.

Almost everybody knows that he can beat you with his feet, just as he can exploit his rifle arm, his mobility and his athleticism. The team’s confidence is the highest it’s been in a long time and people can’t believe that Kaepernick has maintained a congenial demeanor, his composure through 60 minutes of thrills and warmth. The starter Alex Smith was concussed, but now that Kaepernick has convinced Niners coach Jim Harbaugh that he’s present and future, it looks like he will never look back and bench him in favor of Smith.

The reality has kicked in, a glaring dichotomy was in full effect and the insanity of a quarterback controversy quickly dwindled once he validated Harbaugh’s notion. When he named Kaepernick the starter back in November when Smith was out with a concussion, it was strange and cynics weren’t too sure about the QB switch, since Smith was on a roll at the time of the change of direction.

It came with a risk, but in the end, it worked in the team’s favor, as the 49ers are just one win away from dancing and celebrating all night long in New Orleans while hoisting the hardware at the center of the field inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — where the Super Bowl festivities are happening three nights from now. I don’t know about you, but I believe in Kaepernick and everybody back in the Bay Area is probably bringing their best “Kaepernicking” pose and set to cheer the 49ers late Sunday evening. When he regularly made it a habit to kiss one of his biceps in celebration, a trademark that made him famous among fans nationally, it became a mantra that everybody tries to emulate.

Even I’m “Kaepernicking” now!

Everything you need to know about Kaepernick’s future could be seen wonderfully in the most important game of his young career. Basically it boils down to how well he performs in the Super Bowl. If he can manage to lead and deliver another triumphant Super Bowl victory for the first time since 1995, suddenly anointed like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, Kaepernick becomes the face of the celebrated franchise. As Steve Young, the last 49ers quarterback to win a Super Bowl pointed out, quite frankly he’s capable of bringing home another trophy to add to the team’s precious collection.

“He’s answered the bell with whatever’s been asked of him to do,” Young said Thursday. “You keep waiting for the shoe to drop because of the experience, and it hasn’t dropped.”

Young, not surprisingly, has praised Kaepernick late all season, a firm believer in him — having a real understanding of what it takes to win a Super Bowl. He’s been there, he’s done that and can now do his very best to give Kaepernick unsolicited advice that may very well benefit his game in the future as he’s still growing into a franchise quarterback, on the cusp of becoming the first starting quarterback of African American descent to win the championship game in almost half a century.

“He’s doing great, they have a lot of weapons and the best offensive line since the 2000 Rams and ’92 Cowboys,” Young said. “That line dictates the terms on everything.”

The truth of the matter, and we must accept, is that Young has a championship ring from a game that he set a Super Bowl record with six touchdown passes for the 1994 49ers in their blowout 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers. Young, an ESPN analyst, believed in Kaepernick ever since his impressive performance against the Bears, a 32-7 win Nov. 19.

The apex of his career as a quarterback, the toughest assignment someone can take on in America’s most popular game, was reached prematurely when he developed into his role and had rapport with ride receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. Beyond all of that, he’s greatly needed in this game if the Niners are hoping to raise the prize by the time the night is over, by the time the confetti falls from the concrete roof and by the time everybody leaves New Orleans happy and smiling like silly kids begging to visit Disney World.

He’s vital to the Niners revolutionary offense, he’s working out of a clever scheme for which offensive coordinator Greg Roman is a creative genius when it comes to calling plays. Harbaugh and Roman both need no reminding of this when it is apparent that Kaepernick fits perfectly, transcending by playing in the Pistol formation, which contributes to the team’s offense. It’s a very simplified and effective offense that has worked in his favor, and even more so, it has been a factor as the team advanced to the Super Bowl.

There were no flukes here, only a new formula to positive outcomes and an avalanche of repetitive runs to raise a nation’s consciousness by pulling out three consecutive victories and getting hot at the right time. It took a calm, cool and collective guy as good as Kaepernick to lead a stunning rally, the largest comeback in an NFC title game. Kaepernick is a smart, humbled person. His chances of becoming a Super Bowl champ are great, too, because he’s a respectable voice in the locker room and response to adversity.

His chances of celebrating with his team and likely becoming the Super Bowl MVP are great, too, because he’s a tremendous leader and remains unflappable and focus no matter what obstacles stands in his way. If he turns it over, well, then, he works diligently after a mistake that will make up for his early turnovers. He’s not one to easily collapse after one bad throw, but standing on the sideline with a glare in his eyes and with a positive attitude, he’s shown resiliency.

Had it been Smith, and nothing against him, there’s no way the 49ers would have rallied from 17 points down in the NFC title game to the Atlanta Falcons, just no way. But right now, the irony is that he’s rise to stardom, and maybe even a champ by Sunday night or early Monday morning. He’s not someone who response to a bevy of questions from the media and will keep it vague and concise, short and sweet, with his focus strictly on football and nothing else at this point.

And, at the moment, he’s not paying the media any mind and has sights set on leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory in just his 10th career NFL start. He’s becoming a legend before our very eyes. It’s happening right now. The numbers speak loudly. The wins speak clearly. The 49ers have become a better team with him as the starter, and center Jonathan Goodwin began to see a difference for which he deserves a badge of honor, transforming the 49ers offense into a dangerous, more dynamic unit.

The other day, while reporters gathered around Ray Lewis’ table, Joe Staley, a 49ers offensive lineman, poked fun at Kaepernick, just as he’s done a terrific job protecting his star quarterback. A sturdy offensive line is a quarterback’s best friend, and the installation of the Pistol formation is the 49ers workable game plan.

It’s also easy to tip your Kaps to Kaepernick. Look what he’s done. The 49ers, just to refresh memories, are in the Super Bowl.