Greg Cosell spoke on KNBR this afternoon. Here’s what he said about Colin Kaepernick.
Q: What were your impressions of Kaepernick last night?
COSELL: “Kaepernick obviously played really well. He threw the ball exceptionally well. That’s the obvious difference if you’re looking to compare quarterbacks before we talk about the specifics of last night. It’s not news, but obviously Kaepernick has a very strong arm. He snaps it off extremely well. Alex Smith would probably be viewed as having a better-than-average arm and nothing more. Maybe I’ve been hanging around Ron Jaworski for far too many years, but I’m a believer in arm strength, so I like that.”
Q: Was the difference that Kaepernick hit his shot plays and Smith hasn’t been able to do that?
COSELL: “I though these were different kinds of shot plays. I thought they clearly designed a game plan in which they chose to isolate their personnel – Vernon Davis was clearly an active factor in this game plan. The objective early was to create matchups and get him involved. When they hit him on the 22-yard pass on the third play of the game, which by the way came out of six-offensive-linemen personnel – they knew they were going the get the matchup of Davis on the safety, Wright. That wasn’t a shot play per se, but it was a matchup that they created.
“Now, what was really interesting watching the tape this morning, was Kaepernick had five completions of more than 20 yards. All of them came against man coverage. I thought that was really interesting. You don’t automatically think of the Bears as a man coverage team.”
Q: It’s almost like Harbaugh invited a quarterback controversy at the postgame press conference. Do you think it’s because he knows Alex Smith’s ceiling and he sees more to play with with Kaepernick? Is that it?
COSELL: “Yes. Without question. I think you have to be careful, though. Kaepernick was terrific last night. It was a brilliantly orchestrated game plan, which takes nothing away from Kaepernick by the way, because he still had to execute the plays and make the throws. My guess is he’s probably a pretty smart kid, because they did a ton of formations and personnel and it was clear he had some freedom and responsibility at the line of scrimmage. But I thought that the game plan was brilliantly orchestrated. It defined the reads and the throws for him beautifully. They anticipated they’d get man coverage, they got the matchups that they wanted and he made the throws.
“Now, they’re going into New Orleans. New Orleans doesn’t have a good defense – we know that, but that’s not an easy place to play a game for a young quarterback. I think the key part here is he’s a more talented thrower than Alex Smith, and that’s not breaking news either.”
Q: If Alex Smith doesn’t play next week, how do you see the Saints attacking Kaepernick?
COSELL: “You’re going to see more blitz. Steve Spagnuolo will blitz, and when I say blitz, it won’t necessarily be all-out Cover-0 blitz, which the Bears actually did one time last night. Kaepernick immediately read it. That was the play to Crabtree on third and 11 where he broke the tackle and gained 19 or 20 yards. But I think you’ll see more blitz. You’ll see more disguised blitz. You’ll see Kaepernick have to read more before the snap of the ball, but one of the things the 49ers do exceptionally well is their formation and personnel versatility. You’ve got to prepare for all that. When you see them come out in all these different formations, it takes you a moment defensively to think how are we going to match up to that? What is our plan that we practiced all week? All it takes in the NFL is a moment of hesitation, and the offense can gain an advantage. I think that’s part of what happened last night – the Bears, a very good defense, seemed about two steps behind the 49er offense.
“That is the brilliance of offensive design and play calling. I think Harbaugh is sensational at that. This what Joe Gibbs did back in the day with the Washington Redskins. They literally ran three or four running plays and about six or seven route combinations and they used a ton of motions, shifts, all kind of movement – it’s all window dressing. It makes everything look different, but the plays are fairly basic. That’s exactly what the 49ers do, but you’ve still got to react to that.”
Q: Are the 49ers a Super Bowl contender?
COSELL: “The bottom line is this: If this team can create explosive pass plays however they do them and they can do that with some consistency, then this team is truly, truly good enough to contend for a Super Bowl. We can argue that they lost against the Giants in the Championship game because of Kyle Williams, but you and I both know that Alex Smith was not very good in that game.”