SANTA CLARA -#8212; Colin Kaepernick is special.
Let's agree on that. OK? Let's call it our working hypothesis.
But how is he special? I mean, let's use our noodles to figure out this mystery -#8212; because it is a mystery. One of the good mysteries, like the Holy Trinity, one of the all-time best.
Kaepernick's stats are good but not great. We are talking quantifiable things. Take last Sunday against Carolina. You watched that game you came away thinking he was the star. But he completed only 15 passes. Which doesn't put him in the Peyton Manning category. His passer rating was 87.8. Pretty good. But you wouldn't compose an epic poem about it: "Colin Conquers Carolina."
And yet he was a hero in the game. You saw the 45-yard pass he threw to Anquan Boldin. Third quarter, Boldin alone way down the field and the Panthers looking like the Eleven Stooges, the pass long and high and right on the money. The pass taking the Niners to the Panthers' goal line and then Kaepernick running around left end for the touchdown that really ended the game.
Kaepernick doing it.
Something about him transcends stats, although you can link Kaepernick to one overwhelmingly fascinating stat. Kaepernick has won three playoff games on the road. Atlanta last season, and Green Bay and Charlotte this season.
In the totality of his great 49ers' career, Steve Young won no road playoff games.
It makes your head spin, this disparity.
Let's do our due diligence, because we are serious about understanding football, and ask some of the concerned parties a direct question: What is the X-quality that makes Kaepernick special, that elevates him above mere numbers.
Jim Harbaugh: "Yes, A-plus in terms of intangibles. Poise. Big stage never seems to bother him. His leadership ability. Players love him. Coaches love him. Work ethic off the charts -#8212; A-plus-plus."
Me: "When you say big games don't bother him, does he have the same composure, the same attitude in a big game like what's coming up as opposed to a regular-season game?"
Harbaugh: "Just noticed it even going back to college when I first started watching him -#8212; the big games, the big challenge, the big task -#8212; he has that special ability that the great ones have to elevate their game in those situations."
Remember that phrase "the great ones," because we'll mention one of them in a moment. Brett Favre.
But first, back to the concerned parties. Like Boldin, Boldin at the podium Wednesday talking about the Kaepernick X-quality:
"Well, he's just confident in his abilities. He doesn't waver. Even when you guys say bad things about him, he's still confident about getting his job done."
Me: "What's his demeanor like in the huddle?"
Boldin: "He really doesn't change. If it's a bad play, if it's a big play, he doesn't change. He's always, 'Next play. Let's make it happen.'<TH>"
Boldin's insight about the Kaepernick voice was interesting and so was his sharing the powerful phrase, "Next play."