No backup quarterback in the NFL draws more attention than Tim Tebow of the New York Jets—and for absolutely no football reason. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers’ second-string QB, Colin Kaepernick, is becoming the quarterback that Tebow should have been.
Every move Tebow makes is documented and analyzed, from magazine spreads to touchdowns. He has become more than a football player by preaching his gospel, but that hasn’t translated to wins or success on the field (still waiting on the addition of the Book of John Madden to the New Testament).
The Monday Night Football game last week between the Houston Texans and the Jets was about Tebow before the coin toss. It was the 666th edition of MNF, and Tebow made sure to preach on his Twitter account.
The media loved it.
Meanwhile, on the field and across the country, the 4-1 49ers are basking in the glow of their change-of-pace QB, while the Jets sit at 2-3. Kaepernick is in his second season in the NFL and is being used as the “Wildcat,” or as San Fran calls it, the “WildKap.”
It was only fitting that the University of Nevada product burst onto the scene this season against Tebow and the Jets. He had five carries for 50 yards and his first touchdown of the season.
After the game, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio discussed the comparison between the two, stating simply (via NBCsports.com), “The 49ers have their own version of Tim Tebow, only better. His name is Colin Kaepernick.”
Again, some people think the Wildcat has come and gone. No, it hasn’t. If anything, it’s just the opposite. I saw the kid from San Francisco, Kaepernick. He runs a 4.4 or something. I was really intrigued by him...because I thought we were going to lose Brad [Smith]. When you have the ability to throw, as well as run, it makes it tough.
In his time at Nevada, Kaepernick dominated the WAC. He etched his name in NCAA history while running the “pistol” offense at Nevada. He and running back Vai Taua are the most productive rushing tandem in NCAA history. They combined for nearly 9,000 yards on the ground in their careers.
As a four-year starter for the Wolf Pack, Kaepernick threw for 10,098 yards, never had a season with a QB rating below 132 and had 82 touchdowns with 24 interceptions.
Tebow gets more credit for being a runner than a passer in his career. Surprisingly, the only statistical categories where Tebow even comes close to Kaepernick are through the air. The former Gator threw for 9,285 yards and 88 touchdowns with just 16 INTs.
On the ground, Kaepernick runs away with the comparison. He rushed for 4,112 yards to Tebow’s 2,947. Kaepernick averaged seven yards per carry or more in his last three seasons. Tebow’s best performance was a 4.3 yards-per-carry average as a sophomore―he rushed for 5.3 YPC as a freshman.
The collegiate statistics should be tempered since SEC defenses are head and shoulders above WAC defenses. Still, numbers don’t lie, and NFL competition still demonstrates a clear edge to the WildKap, though the sample size is smaller.
This season, Kaepernick is running for 10.1 YPC to Tebow’s 4.1. Tebow has four first downs, WildKap six. Kaepernick has the edge in rushing touchdowns, 2-0, despite having four fewer rushing attempts.
Interestingly enough, the “Wildcat” personnel—let's stop calling it a formation; it's the shotgun formation with an extra runner—that Tebow was supposed to dominate has taken a back seat to the WildKap.
What started on the East Coast has become an interesting twist on the West Coast for the 49ers. It has performed beautifully this season, though not many could have predicted it.
San Francisco must have seen something in Kaepernick that other teams didn’t see. The 49ers traded away three draft picks to move up just nine spots, ensuring their chance to draft him in the second round. Smart move.
The 4-1 Niners lead the NFL in rushing yards per game (195.8). With Frank Gore holding down the backfield, Kaepernick provides a change of pace, averaging over 35 yards per game.
That change of pace has been effective so far, to the tune of 10.6 yards per carry and two touchdowns. Even more importantly, it has translated to an on-field advantage.
Who will have a better NFL career?
Jim Harbaugh said (via Silicon Valley Mercury News), "The ability he has, you have to account for that and have to take advantage of that. He's got play-making ability, and playmakers shined brightly today."
The 49ers are arguably the favorite to win the Super Bowl. Tebow and the Jets? Not so much.
Kaepernick's off-field moves aren’t major headlines. Even his on-field moves go somewhat unnoticed. Yet he gives the 49ers a winning edge by taking pressure off the Niners’ other weapons, adding to opposing defensive coordinators’ blood pressure.
Eventually the football world will gravitate to this perennial underdog.
He isn’t a BCS national champion. He doesn’t do shirtless magazine spreads for Vogue. He hasn’t turned his faith, his team or his football career into a media circus.
All Colin Kaepernick has done is quietly, calmly and humbly become the quarterback that Tim Tebow was supposed to be.