Nobody can ever fault Colin Kaepernick for his tireless work ethic or his never-say-die attitude. Both will serve him well in the future, but right now the quarterback simply isn’t being honest with himself about just how bad he’s been — both mentally and physically — as the leader of the worst offense in the NFL.
Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com reports Kaepernick fired back at head coach Jim Tomsula on Friday, saying he’s “not out of breath, so I don’t understand that reference.”
That reference comes from Tomsula, who said he benched the struggling quarterback so he could “step back and breathe and look at things through a different lens.”
Kaepernick sees the entire thing as a personal attack on his ability to handle pressure, and he seems to wish the organization would just give him the space to work through his struggles.
“I don’t believe in pressure. Pressure is not being prepared for what you want to do. To me, I’ve played full seasons and had success. Mentally, I’ve been through it before. I’m not incapable of going through this.”
Clearly, it’s going to take some more time for Kaepernick to “understand the reference” of “step back and breathe.” He’s understandably hot under the collar, but the usually cool customer is starting to let his emotions show on his sleeves as a result.
And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You want your quarterback to be this fired up about being benched. Unfortunately, at this point Kap just isn’t being honest with himself about just how bad he’s been, and how this really is uncharted territory.
Statistically, the fifth-year quarterback is trending down slightly from last year’s campaign, completing 59.3 percent of his passes for 1,615 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. He was on pace for a 3,230-yard season with only 12 touchdowns, which would have ranked him near the bottom of last year’s passers in both categories.
But it wasn’t even just the bad stats that got Kap benched so much as the way he got them.
Even before Week 8’s embarrassing, and much publicized, failure to recognize he had two receivers WIDE OPEN on a play near his own goal line, Kaepernick was embarrassing himself on a regular basis.
Torrey Smith in utter disbelief Kap missed the blown coverage. pic.twitter.com/8ptlo5Xszk
— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) November 1, 2015
Whether it was overshooting his receivers by a country mile — infamously drilling a team trainer on the sideline with one of the inaccurate attempts — or whether he was sending ground balls to guys on simple hitch routes, Kap has been utterly incapable of hitting his targets for huge stretches of games.
Just as bad, Kaepernick has failed to score in half the team’s games this year. Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst thinks he is playing too cautiously since throwing four interceptions against Arizona in Week 3, which Kap denies.
“I don’t believe that’s accurate,” he said. “Every time I step on the field, I step on the field to make plays, so that’s just a matter of opinion.”
To his point, he did have a couple of games in a row following the loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 4, combining for 602 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions against the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens.
It’s worth pointing out those two teams have the worst and third-worst pass defenses in the NFL. And it’s worth pointing out Kaepernick’s production fell off a cliff the next two games against teams with good pass defenses at home against Seattle and on the road in St. Louis.
Kaepernick is a hard-working, proud young man who believes he can get through anything — and again, that’s a great combination. Unfortunately his ability to make plays has been compromised, and many others in the organization, including unfailingly loyal Tomsula, now see there just isn’t any hope of a turnaround right now.
The only hope he has of making a comeback is by getting completely honest with himself first. He must realize he actually does need to “step back and breathe” to get to the bottom of what’s causing him to fail himself and his teammates this season.