When you look at the most important players for San Francisco, you have to start behind center.
Colin Kaepernick has been a bit of a letdown in 2013, with all things considered. After a blistering start to his career after he took over from Alex Smith, he was expected to continue right where he left off, if not get better. Instead, he’s had the equivalent of a sophomore slump, despite this being his third season.
In almost every statistical methodology, Kaepernick is below where he was last year. Completion percentage, interception percentage, yards per attempt, quarterback rating, ESPN’s QBR, Football Outsider’s defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA)—they're all lower in 2013 than 2012.
However, there’s a definite split between the wins and losses. When he is given time and gets into a groove, San Francisco’s offense starts to click.
It’s not a matter of yardage—although he is averaging 221.3 yards per game in wins and only 123.8 yards in losses. It’s a matter of control and minimizing negative plays. He has more interceptions and nearly as many sacks in less than half the number of games when San Francisco loses.
His running numbers are actually better when the team loses, but that’s because he’s being chased around the pocket. Rather than looking for people down field, he’s pulling the ball down and running.
In wins, Kaepernick has played like a top-10 quarterback, not miles off from someone like Andrew Luck. In those games, he finds chemistry with Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, stakes San Francisco out to a big lead and manages the game smartly the rest of the way.
In the losses this season, however, he has been as bad as any quarterback in football. He completes less than half his passes and spends more time on his back than in the pocket. That level of performance won’t cut it come playoff time. As Kaepernick goes, so will the 49ers.