The critique by Montana is by no means bulletin-board material meant to light a fire under the Nevada product or his teammates. It is simply advice—nuggets Kaepernick should take with him far after the outcome of the title bout on Jan. 19.
As one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history, Montana has seen the game evolve over the years and understands that for all of Kaepernick's strengths, his failure to adapt will potentially cost him years of playing time.
Montana feels that Kaepernick must do a better job in regards to pocket presence and his ability to accurately fire the ball down the field from the comfort of the pocket, as he told Jarrett Bell of USA Today:
I like his mobility and that he's getting the ball downfield. But sometimes, he needs to be more accurate in the pocket with pressure.The game is changing. Nobody wants to throw with pressure anymore. But the guys who can win in this league are the ones who can make throws from the pocket.
Kaepernick still needs to get better at that. He'll look and then he's off and running. I still think the thing is the pocket and making those tight throws from the pocket...He'll make some...but a lot of times guys are wide open, and he misses them.
Of course, there are numbers to back up Montana's claims:
|Year (Games)||Completion Percentage||Rating||Rushes (Rank)||Rusher Per Game|
|2012 (13)||62.4||98.3||63 (4)||4.8|
|2013 (16)||58.4||91.6||92 (3)||5.75|
Kaepernick's rushes were up in 2013 while important pass numbers were down. But it would be erroneous not to point out two things: the league as a whole saw an uptick in quarterback rushes near the top, and he appeared in more games in 2013.
Still, flick on any game tape and Montana's concerns pop up frequently. As Montana illustrates, this is a long-term issue Kaepernick must overcome in order to find sustained success at the pro level:
So many different things come up from the college game, like the run-and-shoot. What happens? It always come back to, 'Can the guy throw the ball from the pocket?' You'll see some things catch on for a while, and then they disappear. How long did the Wildcat last in the NFL?
Montana is not suggesting Kaepernick will suddenly become a non-factor as the read-option potentially goes to the way of the dinosaur. He still brings plenty to the table and has a Ben Roethlisberger-esque way of extending plays with his feet. ESPN points this out nicely:
Colin Kaepernick has the highest completion pct when pressured in the pocket this season (min. 8 games).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 17, 2014
The above percentage is inflated given Kaepernick's ability to escape said pocket and find an outlet—but savvy strengths that have allowed others to succeed are already in place.
What Montana wants to see is Kaepernick develop into a pocket passer that would make him a multi-dimensional threat built to last. When he stands in the pocket, Kaepernick simply does not strike fear into defenses the same way a Roethlisberger does, who has recorded a completion percentage north of 63 in six of his 10 years in the NFL.
Do you agree with Montana's comments?
At some point, Kaepernick may not have a workhorse like Frank Gore behind him to keep defenses honest. If that time comes, he better be able to take care of his body and go up over the top of an expectant defense with accuracy.
Believe it or not, Kaepernick is still very much a young, raw talent. A loaded supporting cast has helped to disguise this notion, but what he has accomplished under center in such a short amount of time should in no way be discredited.
Montana sees the outline of an elite quarterback in Kaepernick, as should all observers. Should the budding star take Montana's comments to heart and properly address areas that currently lag behind the rest, the NFL's next great quarterback will officially arrive.