Here is my Sunday column.
Colin Kaepernick looked like a new guy during warmups Friday afternoon.
He’d drop back, raise the football to his ear and fling it in one quick, compact motion — up and out. It seemed like a perfect recreation of Aaron Rodgers’ throwing motion, the ideal throwing motion.
Kaepernick used have a long, loopy motion. When he threw a football, he’d bring it down to his waist, then extend his right arm all the way back like a pitcher.
This offseason Kaepernick decided to shorten his stroke and improve his knowledge of the game. So, he spent 10 weeks at EXOS training facility in Phoenix, Ariz. He worked with quarterback guru Dennis Gile, who changed Kaepernick’s mechanics.
In addition, Kaepernick spent one day a week in a classroom with former quarterback Kurt Warner, and they worked on reading defenses and going through progressions. Watching Kaepernick during warmups, you were sure he had internalized all the training he received in Phoenix.
He finished the Friday’s warmup session throwing deep passes with touch. He used to throw deep on a straight line, like a pitcher. But during warmups, he’d calmly lean back, launch the ball high into the air with his brand-new compact delivery and hit his receiver in stride 60 yards downfield. Gorgeous passes. Good for him.
As soon as team drills started, he routinely was late throwing to his primary receiver. He’d try to make up for his lateness by firing the ball extra hard, and he’d revert to his old loopy throwing motion.
He wasn’t any quicker or better at reading defenses and going through progressions than before. During team passing drills Friday afternoon, Kaepernick would stare down his primary receiver and, if he wasn’t open, Kaepernick would start scrambling instead of resetting his feet and finding his secondary receiver. Kaepernick bolted. When he threw, he threw with his old loopy motion.
Under pressure, he showed total reversion to the old Kaepernick.
A few days before Friday’s practice, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report reported that the Niners’ coaching staff is concerned Kaepernick won’t be able to carry over his offseason training to the regular season.
Here’s what Cole said in a video report on Bleacher Report: “While Kaepernick was working out and doing due diligence, (the 49ers) weren’t a part of that process. They were not able to observe those workouts because the collective bargaining agreement specifically prohibits teams from working with players during parts of the offseason…
“(Jim) Tomsula wanted to send quarterbacks coach Steve Logan down to Arizona to observe those workouts,” Cole said. “Ultimately, (the 49ers) said no. General manager Trent Baalke said, look, let’s not take a chance of violating the collective bargaining agreement by sending a coach down there and making it look like that coach might be working with Kaepernick …
“Now, the question is can Kaepernick carry whatever he was working with down in Arizona into the regular season, to fix his mechanics, fix his ability to read the field, and will the 49ers’ coaching staff know how to work with him based on all of that training?”
It’s like Kaepernick spent the offseason learning football in Spanish and has to relearn everything in Hebrew. The language, the terminology, the words that Warner and Gile use aren’t likely the same as the words offensive coordinator Geep Chryst and quarterbacks coach Steve Logan use with the 49ers.
The progressions probably aren’t the same, either. Warner doesn’t know how Chryst and Logan want to teach a particular play in a particular game situation. Warner knows how Mike Martz taught that play — Martz is Warner’s former coach. Martz has nothing to do with the Niners’ current offense.
Warner’s work with Kaepernick may have been fruitless.
It’s possible Kaepernick’s entire experience at EXOS had no benefit. It’s one thing too look improved during warmups.
It’s another thing to practice what he learned in a competitive situation, like seven-on-sevens, 11-on-11s or a game. A quarterback can’t think about how he throws the ball. He has to read coverages, progressions, hot routes and sight-adjustments. Muscle memory takes over and the quarterback throws on instinct.
Tim Tebow is the perfect example. Year after year, he works with tutors on his throwing, and he throws fine when he’s on the sideline by himself because he can focus on his mechanics.
Throw him into a team passing drill? Bam, he reverts to how he has thrown since he was a kid, the way he has thrown for decades.
Kaepernick is 27. Think about how many reps he’s had throwing a football one particular way. Now, all of sudden, he wants to change his motion?
Realistically, the odds are against him. It takes a special athlete to achieve what he’s doing. Is he that athlete?
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.