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Grant Cohn: 49ers' Colin Kaepernick's off in the pocket

Late last season, Joe Montana told USA Today that Colin Kaepernick needed to improve as a pocket passer. Kaepernick disagreed.

"I think pocket passing is something that is overlooked as far as what I do," Kaepernick told a local radio station. Suggesting Montana, the greatest quarterback ever, is not a discerning quarterback analyst.

"I think people see me run around, see me throw on the run, see me run downfield and say, 'That's just what he does.' But, when you step up in the pocket and make a normal throw, it gets overlooked because you're not running around. Yes, you want to get better at (pocket passing). I want to get better at throwing on the run. I want to get better at going through progressions quicker. You want to get better at everything, but I don't think (pocket passing) is something that is specifically being addressed."

Kaepernick is kidding himself. He thinks pocket passing is overrated. He's wrong. He thinks he's a good pocket passer. He isn't.

Throwing from the pocket last season, Kaepernick threw 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and his passer rating was just 80.9. Dreadful numbers. Montana was absolutely right.

On the other hand, Kaepernick's passing numbers outside of the pocket were phenomenal – 12 touchdowns, just one interception and 114.4 passer rating. This should be no surprise. His specialty is running and throwing on the run.

"In high school, Colin ran the Wing T offense, which is a lot of misdirection running plays and throwing on the run outside of the pocket," Chris Ault told me in a phone interview. Ault was Kaepernick's head coach at the University of Nevada, and currently is a consultant for the Kansas City Chiefs. "The system did not feature the quarterback. They were not a great throwing team. He was not a pure drop-back quarterback coming out of high school."

Kaepernick has been a drop-back pocket passer for 29 NFL games – that's it. At Nevada, he did not line up under center. He lined up a few yards behind center in the Pistol, and sometimes the Shotgun. And he ran the ball 600 times in four seasons.

"Nevada's offense complemented him," Ault said. "He was able to get on the field at a young age. If he went to a college where he had to drop back from under center, he would have spent a long time developing and wouldn't have gotten on the field as quickly. But in a Pistol like we ran at Nevada or Shotgun offense where the quarterback is away from center, the quarterback has more time to look at the defense because he's not dropping back, and there are more chances to get rid of the ball earlier."

Kaepernick thrives when he can get rid of the ball quickly – that's what he did in college. Last season when he threw the ball in fewer than 2.5 seconds, his completion percentage was 66.1 and his passer rating was 101.2. Elite numbers. But, when Kaepernick took longer than 2.5 seconds to throw, his completion percentage fell to 49.7, and his passer rating fell to 80.7.


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