Colin Kaepernick: Star QB Will Lead 49ers Back to Playoffs Next Season

Justin Onslow@@JustinOnslowNFLContributor IIFebruary 5, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field after losing against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Whatever talk that remained of Jim Harbaugh’s decision to bench Alex Smith during the regular season has swiftly dissipated. Colin Kaepernick proved on Sunday he is the future of the franchise.

As if several big regular-season wins and playoff performances weren’t enough to cement his place under center for the Niners, Kaepernick delivered a phenomenal performance against the Baltimore Ravens, the lone blemish being a pass intended for Randy Moss that he let sail high resulting in an Ed Reed interception.

Kaepernick displayed his talent on the field, and he’s also showing how valuable a leader he can be for the 49ers. According to Michael David Smith of NBC Sports, Kaepernick took full responsibility for the interception that swung the momentum back in Baltimore’s favor. He didn’t blame Moss despite some media criticism that Moss didn’t try hard enough for the pass, and that willingness to shoulder the burden is the kind of thing a team looks for in a leader.

Kaepernick isn’t planning on taking time off to relax and enjoy the offseason. A close Super Bowl loss calls for refocus and dedication, and that’s exactly what he intends to do. According to NFL Network's Albert Breer, Kaepernick will be traveling to Atlanta within a week to begin training with some of his receivers:

Alex Smith won’t be on the team next year, and all talk of a quarterback controversy is in the past. San Francisco is Kaepernick’s team, and that team will be back with a vengeance next season.

Apart from defensive deficiencies that were apparent on Sunday, the 49ers don’t have a lot of holes to fill this offseason. They need to get better in the defensive secondary, but no other unit showed any glaring absence in 2012. If San Francisco can address its defensive needs through free agency and the draft, the 49ers will be poised to once again storm through the NFC.

Much of what Kaepernick was given to work with this season will be in place next year. San Francisco boasts one of the best offensive lines in the league, and Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis should all be a huge part of the offense next year as well. The only thing San Francisco lost this year was its inexperience.

The experience of leading a team to a Super Bowl is enough to motivate any football player. Kaepernick isn’t just any football player, though. His drive and determination will carry him through another offseason—this time prepared to be the starting quarterback. He’s now been there, and he knows what it will take to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

While Kaepernick has room to improve as a passer, the cerebral aspect of the position is something that takes time to develop. His inexperience showed at times this season, but he’s already made it abundantly clear he intends to put in the time and effort to continually grow and develop as an NFL quarterback.