After two-straight losses that consisted of mediocre offense, this week has been one of soul-searching for San Francisco 49ers coaches, players and fans trying to figure what hasn’t been working. Everyone has their opinion on what is going wrong with Colin Kaepernick and the offense, including former Niners legend Steven Young.
On Wednesday, Young talked about the issues plaguing the offense on his weekly appearance on KNBR. The former quarterback did not hold back and he thinks a lot has to do with Kaepernick’s fundamentals:
Is it just offensive coordinator’s play calling? We don’t have any threats on the perimeter? Is that the issue? Is that the real issue? Or is it now, fundamentally, Trent Dilfer was onto something last week saying about, ‘No, it’s Colin.’
And, really, Colin comes off of fakes and they’ve got some neat little things … and people are wide open on the first look. And now they’re not open. Now the second look is not something that he’s really great at. Is that, fundamentally, the issue? You wonder which one’s really causing the problem. Because (there) is a problem right now.
Kaepernick has been downright terrible in San Francisco’s four losses this season. His QB rating against the Seahawks was 20.1, and against the Colts it was 49.9. In the last two games, he has posted a QB rating of 42.0 (Panthers) and 72.9 (Saints). In the Saints game, Kaepernick tossed two touchdown passes; however, they were on drives of 11 and 22 yards.
The problem is also with the play calling. During the 49ers’ five-game winning streak the offense was more balanced with almost the same amount of rushing attempts and passing attempts being called. When Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman choose to open up the passing game before establishing the ground game is where the offense starts to go awry. Even when the 49ers offense is forced to pass because they are losing late in game (see last two games) they have not been successful. Against the Panthers and Saints, Kaepernick has combined for 161 net passing yards and he hasn’t thrown a completion longer than 17 yards. All totaled, the 49ers have averaged only 173.5 yards during the two-game losing streak.
After the Colts game it became, we’re going to run the football, play great defense, go back to what we were with Alex Smith. That’s kind of how we’re going to do it. We’re going to kind of set a stake in the ground. And it worked. Five games in a row. You really got the sense that that was the 49er way. Who we really are. And that was fine. But, in the meantime, the constriction around the offense now is not just a strategic move. It’s now an illness. ~ Steve Young
Below are some additional highlights of Young’s comments about Kaepernick. You can listen to The Steve Young Show by clicking here. (Note: The Steve Young Show starts at the 60:00 minute mark):
…if it’s just play-calling, and we need some receivers back, and, you know, we need, philosophically and tactically, we need to get more excited, and expansive and wider, and fuller, and riskier. If that’s all it is, then fine. But if it’s something fundamental to the position, to the guy, that’s a whole other can of worms that I don’t think anyone wants to talk about right now.
In bold is where Young gets to the heart of the issue with Kaepernick. For most of the game, the Saints defense stacked eight-men in the box, basically daring Kaepernick to throw. The Saints did this because defenses are no longer scared of him passing down the field.
The precipitous fall, if that’s the case, from where Colin was at the end of the year and how much pressure he was putting on defenses and how baffling the spread-option and the Pistol was. That window is so closed. And now having to go play real quarterback.
And we know that that’s not going to happen in five seconds. That’s a process. Is that just too much right now? And people smell it, and know it, and now it’s affecting everything? That’s alarming. If that’s truly what’s going on – and I don’t have enough intel to really know that yet – but if defenses are calling it then you’re in a lot of trouble.
Young went on to say that the 49ers need to figure out their offensive issues soon because the window of opportunity to win with this core group of players will not be opened for long:
And how do you get out of it? And how do we get expansive again? How do we threaten and really be the team that can go the distance because that’s really what we’re talking about, right? We’re not talking about getting in the playoffs and losing in the first round. We’re talking about a team that’s built, and has the capacity and a window, of guys in the locker room. Leaders ready to go. A stingy defense. A lot of offensive talent. Top-five offensive line. This is the time. Last year was maybe a little early, but it exposed itself at the time. Now is the time to make hay.
I don’t mind a game or two here or there, but now it’s a problem. You know, throwing for 90 yards and throwing for 110 yards and being really efficient? OK. But at some point, no, that’s not going to get it done. And now you’re losing games that you should have won. Not just because of what happened with Ahmad Brooks. Not just because of a little turnover here or there. Fundamentally, we’re not playing well enough offensively to win in this league. And that’s alarming.