The San Francisco 49ers may not reside in Los Angeles, but they’ve got a story made for Hollywood as they make final preparations for Super Bowl XLVII.
The story of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been well documented. He grew up a fan of the Green Bay Packers and predicted (correctly) in fourth grade that he would be a starting quarterback someday for either the Packers or the 49ers. His story has been repeated so much this week that it would be a waste of time to repeat all here.
When you look at the hype surrounding Kaepernick this year, including his attempt to trademark “Kaepernicking,” also known as the act of kissing your biceps after a big play, you might feel you’ve seen this script before.
Some have compared this hype over Kaepernick to the Tebowmania that took America by storm last year, as then-Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow rallied Denver to an AFC West title and a playoff upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow even put a trademark on “Tebowing” last season, much as Kaepernick has done with his celebration this year.
That, however, is about where the comparisons end. Tebowmania in part was fueled by enormous expectations placed on Tebow’s shoulders before he even entered the NFL. He won two national titles at Florida and had a documentary crew follow him as he prepared for the 2010 NFL Draft. Tebow was also a Heisman Trophy-winner and was selected by the Broncos in an aggressive move to get him in the first round.
Kaepernick had nowhere near the same amount of hype as he entered the draft in 2011. While some draftniks had him listed as one of the best quarterbacks available that year, Kaepernick did not have the pressure of great expectations as he began his rookie year and did not have cameras following his every move in the offseason. This isn’t to say Tebow was to blame for that per se, but in the eyes of many average football fans, Kaepernick literally came out of nowhere.
Tebow also had an incredibly large and passionate fan army behind him. He was one of the most popular players in NCAA history, and the moment Kyle Orton began to struggle in 2010, there was a very loud call for the Broncos to insert Tebow in the starting lineup. It would soon become obvious Tebow was not prepared to be an NFL starting quarterback.
Kaepernick had no such luxury. As an alum of the University of Nevada, he didn’t play under the big spotlight of the SEC like Tebow did. He was drafted in the second round of the draft two years ago, and though he led Nevada to some strong seasons, he didn’t come close to smelling a national title. Such is the ways of the BCS, unfortunately.
Then of course, there is the matter of their actual play. Tebow, for three quarters of a game anyway, was consistently under 50 percent—sometimes even under 40 percent—in his completion percentage. The throws he did complete sometimes looked like wounded ducks. Otherwise, balls were thrown either in the dirt or over receivers’ heads.
Tebow would somehow flip a switch in the fourth quarter, especially if the Broncos were trailing, and suddenly would become a competent NFL quarterback. It was an approach that worked for the Broncos as they rallied to an 8-8 finish to win the AFC West and beat the Steelers in a wild card round. When the time came the following week to play the New England Patriots however, the Broncos were blown out of the water.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Broncos landed Peyton Manning and traded Tebow to the Jets where he wallowed in misery for an entire season. Tebow is almost certain to be on his third team in three years in 2013, if he is even in the league at all.
Kaepernick has had an easier time. While his biography has been repeated ad nauseum throughout the postseason, he has earned that right. He has played very well ever since being inserted into the starting lineup for an injured Alex Smith. The expectations of him were not very high, unlike Tebow, but even if they were he probably would have exceeded them.
He's completed 62.4% of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdowns versus only three interceptions since taking over. Kaepernick also rushed for 415 yards this season. He plays Tebow-style football, but has been more efficient as a passer. The 49ers are currently running a read-option offense just like Denver did last season, but have been much more effective at it.
The read-option may prove to be a fad like the Wildcat formation, but give Kaepernick and the 49ers credit. They have run with it (pun not intended) all the way to the Super Bowl and could very well hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.
That’s where the biggest difference lies between the Kaepernick hype and Tebowmania: The 49ers built it on a solid foundation, while Tebow’s offense was nothing but a house of cards.
Tebow’s proven to be the joker of the deck. Kaepernick very well may trump an ace on Sunday should the 49ers win the game. Fad offense or not, a ring is something no one can ever take from Kaepernick.