The following play epitomizes how inept the 49ers’ offense has become:
Eight minutes left in the second quarter against the Saints. Play No. 2 of drive No. 6 for the Niners. Colin Kaepernick lines up under center and waves his left arm to silently signal the third-string tight end, Derek Carrier, to shift to the slot. Carrier isn’t looking.
Kaepernick yells, “Go.” Carrier can’t hear him. The Superdome is deafening. Kaepernick leans over and screams as loud as he can at Carrier. Finally, Carrier scrambles to the slot with four seconds left on the play clock. Kaepernick turns to the official in disgust and calls timeout. The official just stares at him.
The 49ers don’t have any more timeouts left in the first half. Jim Harbaugh already used all three of them. Kaepernick just called timeout No. 4.
After a moment, Kaepernick realizes what he has done. Then he actually shrugs his shoulders and raises his palms in futility, and then he wanders back under center as the play clock expires and the officials flag him for delay of game.
Otherwise, the 49ers were all set for that play.
The 49ers currently don’t have a clue on offense. On the play I just described, the coaches made two grievous mistakes. One was putting Carrier on the field. He had never played in an NFL game before. The 49ers activated him from the practice squad the day before the game. He should have been on the bench.
Mistake No. 2: Someone on the 49ers’ sideline – Jim Harbaugh, quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, the ball boy, anyone – should have reminded Kaepernick before the drive how many timeouts he had. It’s easy to assign this task to someone and make sure this mistake never happens. Most teams do this.
But still, Kaepernick shouldn’t need a reminder. He should have known how many timeouts he had. Every quarterback always should know that. Alex Smith would have known. That’s junior-varsity stuff.
More junior-varsity stuff from Kaepernick against the Saints: He ran out of bounds on third down with 1:48 seconds left in the fourth quarter, stopping the clock, giving the Saints time to get the ball, drive the field and win with a field goal. Had he stayed in bounds, the 49ers could have run another 40 seconds off the clock and almost surely forced overtime.
Any educated player knows you want to make the clock run and stay in bounds even if you have to sacrifice a few yards by going down early.
Are the 49ers educating Kaepernick in Quarterbacking 101?
Kaepernick looks less prepared and less confident this season than he did at almost any time last season. Other than that horrible last series at the Ravens’ 5-yard line in the Super Bowl, Kaepernick has never looked worse.
All of his important stats are way down from last season – completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating.
You’ve seen him play this season. He isn’t accurate or aggressive. He looks frustrated most of the time. You can almost see smoke streaming out of his ears. The 49ers are overloading his circuits, putting “a lot on our plate” – his phrase – and he can’t digest it all. It’s enough to cause indigestion in the third-year quarterback who has started just 17 regular-season games. He’s forgetting the basics – when to stay in bounds, how to count to three.
Kaepernick isn’t experienced enough to handle all the decisions he has to make before the snap in Harbaugh’s offense – all the checks and shifts and motions. Harbaugh should give him a break, reduce the complicated stuff for the time being, make things easy for Kaepernick and let him just play the game.
Perhaps it was premature to name Jim Harbaugh “The Quarterback Whisperer” – the best quarterback mentor in the NFL.
Darrell Bevell is doing a much better job developing Russell Wilson in Seattle, and Mike Shula is doing a much better job developing Cam Newton in Carolina. Jim Harbaugh should be taking notes from those guys.
Kaepernick is in trouble and Harbaugh doesn’t seem to have any solutions. He’s too busy screaming at the officials.
We should officially call Harbaugh “The Official Screamer” until Kaepernick starts improving. And that’s official.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org