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The 2012 season gave life to the Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson rivalry, very well dawning a new era in the NFC West for the next decade. After a period of colorless quarterback play, these two organizations have caught lightning in a bottle.
As early to mid-round picks in their respective draft classes, both Kaepernick and Wilson were thrust into competition and took to the pro game like fish to water. In competitive situations, they thrived, and each quickly earned the respect of his teammates.
Especially for Kaepernick, these were not easy odds to overcome. In the midst of a controversy on a Super Bowl favorite, Kaepernick had to take the reigns late in the season and prove to himself, Jim Harbaugh and the world that he belonged.
This was trying for Kaepernick, whereas Wilson’s ascension into the lineup was a seamless transition in comparison. After an open competition, Wilson had a nine-game head start on Kaepernick, having won the starting job in training camp.
Regardless of the situation, the Seahawks' rookie QB had quite an impressive 2012 campaign. Almost irrefutably, Wilson asserted himself as the team’s franchise quarterback.
Wilson showed he had the winning gene, engineering four fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives, per Scott Kacsmar of Pro Football Focus.
Kaepernick only led to winning fourth-quarter drives in the regular season. But in hindsight, he did not make his first start until Week 10. Also, with that stellar defense, Kaepernick rarely had to play from behind.
In his seven career starts during the regular season, Kaepernick averaged a 100.4 QB rating. And while it’s early in their careers, at this juncture, I won’t waver from proclaiming Kaepernick as the better player.
While they both have strong arms, Kaepernick is a better thrower. With his pinpoint accuracy and high velocity, Kaepernick is a franchise quarterback based solely on his passing ability.
Two-time Super Bowl champion QB and NFL analyst Phil Simms had this to say about Kaepernick (h/t Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle):
He may be the most dynamic quarterback in the NFL. His arm is not good, it’s special. If you watch the San Francisco 49ers ever since he became quarterback, you see these throws every single week. It’s not only the power. It’s the accuracy. That’s what has really startled me. He can throw it hard on a line, but his touch passes down the field have been spectacular… Forget the running, that arm alone is enough to make you a franchise quarterback.
Add in the running ability, which is unparalleled—maybe even the all-time best at the QB position—and Kaepernick has the edge over Wilson.
Moreover, the 49ers' quarterback started fewer games and still led his team to the Super Bowl. And despite his jaw-dropping performances, Kaepernick is just scratching the surface in San Francisco.
C. Kaepernick: 5-2 record as starter, 1.4 percent interception rate, 10 TDs,3 INTs
R. Wilson: 11-5 record as a starter, 2.5 percent interception rate, 26 TDs, 10 INTs
This offseason, the 49ers made two trades to bolster the quarterback position. The Niners first sent Alex Smith to Kansas City, then proceeded to acquire Colt McCoy from Cleveland.
Through that sequence, the 49ers gained second- and sixth-round draft picks in 2013, while losing a fifth and a seventh.
The addition of McCoy will give the Niners an experienced player better suited to be a backup in this league. And since he is only three years into his NFL career, McCoy is still raw in the developmental sense.
Furthermore, let's not neglect Jim Harbaugh is a known QB guru, while Pete Carroll is not. As long as Harbaugh is in the Bay Area, he will forever give the Niners an edge at the quarterback position.
Given the all-encompassing talent between coach and quarterback, the Harbaugh-Kaepernick combo is tough to beat.