I had to laugh at some of the things Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday at the NFL’s owners meetings in Orlando.
Harbaugh said Colin Kaepernick is “one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL,” and he deserves the big bucks. “I think we all know what Colin’s earning potential is,” Harbaugh said.
First, I have to laugh again. Those statements kill me every time.
Second, let me point out that Kaepernick’s earning potential is not Harbaugh’s concern. He coaches the players. That’s his job. Make them better, Jim. Kaepernick’s earning potential is the concern of Trent Baalke, Paraag Marathe and Kaepernick’s agent.
Third, Harbaugh’s logic is flawed. A team should pay a player based on what he’s actually earned – his performance on the field – not based on the anticipation of what he may do.
The Packers gave Aaron Rodgers the big bucks after 93 starts, 179 touchdown passes, three Pro Bowl selections, four seasons in a row with a passer rating better than 100, an MVP award and a Super Bowl win.
Here are Kaepernick’s accomplishments in comparison: 29 starts, 38 touchdown passes, zero Pro Bowl selections, zero seasons with a passer rating better than 100, zero MVPs and zero Super Bowl wins. Not the resume of a top NFL QB, and not someone who deserves the big bucks yet.
Kaepernick may become better than Rodgers one day and, if that day comes, then Kaepernick will merit the big bucks. But that day is way down the line. And there is some concern about Kaepernick’s ability to fulfill his potential, especially under Harbaugh.
That’s the real issue.
Can Harbaugh get Kaepernick to play up to what Harbaugh thinks Kaepernick’s earning potential is?
Let me explain why there are doubts. I can describe five plays in just three playoff games that concern me.
In the NFC championship game in Seattle last season, Kaepernick threw an interception to the Seahawks’ strong safety, Kam Chancellor, in the crucial fourth quarter when Kaepernick fell apart. Kaepernick dropped back, looked left and fired a pass to Anquan Boldin. But Chancellor was standing right in front of Boldin. Somehow, Kaepernick never saw Chancellor.
That mistake virtually replicated one Kaepernick made just two weeks before against the Packers in the Wild Card playoff round. Kaepernick dropped back, looked left and fired a pass directly to a Packers’ defender, Mycah Hyde, who was standing in front of Boldin.
Hyde dropped the interception, but if he had made the catch, the Packers would have won and we all would agree that Kaepernick does not deserve to be paid as much as Rodgers.
The point is Kaepernick did not learn from the Hyde mistake, and made it again two weeks later in Seattle.
Kaepernick tends to throw blindly to his left. He almost never sees underneath coverage on that side of the field. On his second throw of his first playoff game – at Candlestick against the Packers two seasons ago – Kaepernick dropped back, looked left and threw an interception right to the Packers’ cornerback, Sam Shields.
Harbaugh should have drilled that bad habit out of Kaepernick long ago. But Harbaugh didn’t.
Two more plays are troubling about Kaepernick.
He lost to the Ravens in the Super Bowl because he threw up a prayer to Michael Crabtree in the end zone on the last play of the game. Kaepernick should have called his last timeout and figured out with Harbaugh a good play to run.
Obviously, Kaepernick learned nothing from that because he failed under virtually the same circumstances the following season in the NFC championship game.
Thirty-seconds left, the 49ers were down six. Kaepernick threw up a prayer to Crabtree in the end zone instead of using a timeout – the Niners had two left. Richard Sherman tipped the ball to a linebacker, Malcolm Smith, and the 49ers lost.
No creativity. No chance. Back-to-back seasons ended on the exact same mistake. Harbaugh can’t let that happen.
There was one more thing Harbaugh said at the owners meetings that made me laugh. He said: “Nobody wants to be great like (Kaepernick) does. Nobody attacks it like he does.”
At best, effort is the minimum a player is expected to contribute.
The 49ers should not reward effort or potential or attacking. The 49ers should reward results.
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.