Jimmy Garoppolo and Colin Kaepernick do have some things in common. Both were second round picks, have gifted skillsets, and did very well when they first took over as the 49ers’starting quarterback. However, the similarities really end there.
I hate to be the patronizing smug asshole on SKA, but I am going to educate some of you plebs on why Garoppolo is the real deal and why Kaepernick was always a gimmick even when he played well.
Difference #1: The teams they took over.
Colin Kaepernick balled out in 2012. He went 7-3 as a starter and came within one play of winning the Super Bowl. However, he did not take over a bad team. Alex Smith was 6-2 as a starter before getting a concussion and was playing really well for them. The 49ers also had the best offensive line in football in 2012 and were a top 3 defensive team.
Garoppolo took over a team that was 8-35 in the 2 and a half seasons before he became the starter (Kaepernick was 3-16 in that span). This year, the team was 1-10 and near the bottom of the league in every offensive and defensive category. He responded by going 5-0 as their starter including wins over 2* playoff teams. This isn’t a Tebow situation either. Check out how much the 49ers offensive improved under him.
YARDS PER GAME
Before Garoppolo: 321.7 (21st in NFL)
After Garoppolo: 410.0 (1st in NFL*)
NET PASSING PER GAME
Before Garoppolo: 221.8 (17th in NFL)
After Garoppolo: 297.0 (1st in NFL*)
Before Garoppolo: 34.1 percent (26th in NFL)
After Garoppolo: 50.0 percent (1st in NFL*)
Before Garoppolo: 56.6 percent (31st in NFL)
After Garoppolo: 67.0 percent (3rd in NFL*)
Before Garoppolo: 35 (tied for 6th most in NFL)
After Garoppolo: 8 (6th best in NFL*)
TIME OF POSSESSION
Before Garoppolo: 27:36 (31st in NFL)
After Garoppolo: 32:54 (1st in NFL*)
POINTS PER GAME
Before Garoppolo: 17.0 (28th in NFL)
After Garoppolo: 28.8 (2nd in NFL*)
Difference #2: Pocket presence
As a longtime fan of Greg Cosell and NFL Films, I was worried about Kaepernick’s future in the league even before he played a snap. He never threw well out of the pocket in college and only made one read on his throws, which was well documented by even the casual fan.. This was apparent in 2012, but teams didn’t really figure that out until 2013 and completely figured it out by November 2014. His efficiency plummeted because defenders knew exactly where he was going to throw the ball every time he dropped back.
Garoppolo has no such issues. The receiving corps Garoppolo had to work with might be the least talented we’ve ever seen, yet he was able to be productive with them. He was great at extending plays, making something out of nothing, and most importantly, not taking sacks. Despite having a worse offensive line than Kaepernick ever had and worse receivers than Kaepernick ever had, Garoppolo took sacks at about a fourth of the rate Kaepernick did throughout his career (2.2% vs 8.3%).
Difference #3: Locker Room Presence
It wasn’t that Kaepernick was hated or anything in the locker room. Rather, he hardly existed. During the 2015 season, it was reported that he was on an island in the 49ers locker room and that he did not really connect with anybody on a personal level. As a quarterback, this is a fatal flaw. All the good quarterbacks or even decent ones form a relationship with the rest of the offense as it commands respect as the leader of the team. Kaepernick did not have that connection and you’d be a fool to think that has no effect on the field.
Garoppolo is loved by the entire locker room and commands presence in the huddle and on the sidelines. In spite of only being on the team for 5 weeks, he quickly got to know the teammates he had to work with and was constantly talking to them and building a rapport with them. Don’t believe me? Watch this video.
Also, the fact that so many of his teammates came to the press conference announcing his new contract shows that he is the true leader of this team.
Difference #4: Kaepernick needs a specific system and players to be successful. Garoppolo can play in any system.
Kaepernick was a dual threat, but the problem is he never developed into a very good one. He got happy feet in the pocket and made ill advised throws and took way too many sacks. He didn’t throw many interceptions, which is a plus, but he was a one-read quarterback who had only succeeded in one system in both college and the NFL. That system was figured out by 2014 and attempting to convert him to a more traditional quarterback failed and his numbers plummeted as a result.
Garoppolo is a traditional pocket passer. He is not as fast as Kaepernick and does not have as big of an arm, but he has a far more accurate arm and responds to pressure well. He has the touch on short to intermediate throws that Kaepernick lacked, which allows him to complete more passes and sustain long drives in ways Kap never could. His ability to stay in the pocket, make multiple reads and fit the ball into tight windows are what every coach and coordinator looks for in a quarterback.
Difference #5: Throwing Mechanics
Kaepernick had a messed up throwing motion that caused him to throw passes like a pitcher throws a fastball**. He doesn’t have a quick release when he throws, but makes up for it by throwing bullets. The problem is these balls don’t land where they are supposed to. Receivers often have to go way out of their way to catch these balls as they are often overthrown or underthrown at a very short distance. He even admitted that he wasn’t into throwing mechanics when his college coach called him out for it in 2015.
Brett Kollmann, a well respected NFL Film analyst, clocked Jimmy Garoppolo’s release as the fastest in the league outside of Aaron Rodgers. Because of this as well as his incredible touch, he is able to complete passes that 90% of other quarterbacks cannot. He frustrated Telvin Smith and the rest of the vaunted Jaguars defense by completing several throws in tight coverage that would be easy picks had they been playing almost anybody else.
Difference #6: Looks
Garoppolo looks like Clark Kent. Kaepernick looks like Squidward from SpongeBob.
I am not saying Kaepernick shouldn’t have a job in the NFL. He may get one eventually (Packers anybody?***).What I am saying that comparing Kaepernick to Garoppolo is very short sided and it takes just a little bit of observation to know that Garoppolo a better quarterback in almost every single way.
* Out of fairness to the Rams for resting their starters, I did not include them as a playoff team.
** This makes sense as Kaepernick was a highly touted pitcher in high school.
*** As a backup obviously. Don’t be stupid.