Colin Kaepernick is the future of the 49ers, but needs to make some adjustments in order to succeed in the playoffs.
Colin Kaepernick beat Tom Brady last week, but he is not yet Tom Brady. No one expects him to be, either, but it's important to keep in mind that it's still his first season as a starter and there are inevitably areas in which he can improve.
Jim Harbaugh's decision to switch quarterbacks in the middle of an already successful season seemed strange at the time, but now it seems like an obvious solution to the limitations of the Alex Smith-led offense.
Kaepernick has proven beyond all doubt that he is the man for the job, but he is still learning and there are changes that he must make to his game before the postseason.
One of those adjustments needed is to the speed of the NFL. Kaepernick sometimes looks overwhelmed by the tempo of the game as he leads his team to the line of scrimmage.
Being aware of the play clock will eventually become second nature to him as he commands the huddle with more efficiency, and it's understandable that he wants to take as long as he can making the right calls.
Which area is most in need of improvement for Kaepernick?
These sorts of things come with experience, but in the postseason it will anger fans if timeouts are wasted in such a pointless manner. The 49ers have a complex offense and the personnel groupings will take time to call, but there has to be more urgency.
The other problem is obviously that penalties can cost teams games, so Harbaugh will surely be ensuring Kaepernick runs his offense quickly and efficiently before the start of the playoffs.
It's worth mentioning that Alex Smith had similar difficulties at times, but not as many. BayAreaSportsGuy.com went back and analyzed the two quarterbacks. Smith had 10 timeouts called in nine games due to play clock issues, but Kaepernick has had 13 called in five.
This is also something that will be solved over time, but the end of the regular season is near and the thing the team needs the most is for their quarterback to be in tune with his receivers.
Kaepernick has spread the ball around a lot since making his first start, which is to be expected. Speaking to The Sacramento Bee, tight end Vernon Davis lamented having to start again with a new signal caller:
You have to expect (that because) he just stepped in. Me and Alex – we've been there. It takes time. It took time for me and Alex to get like that. It's like it's starting all over again, especially for me.
Davis' contributions in the playoffs last year made a real difference, with four touchdowns and 292 yards across two games. The last-second grab against New Orleans will live forever in the memories of 49ers fans, but it's unrealistic to expect similar heroics from Kaep.
Instead, he will be a split-second slower as he has to judge his throws according to which receiver he targets. Davis, in particular, was a supporter of Smith's and Kaepernick has to work hard to reach a similar level of trust before the playoffs.
The good news is that the QB is getting better with every start. If he continues that rate of improvement, eliminating the problems mentioned above, I'm putting my money on the 49ers for the Super Bowl this year.