It is fashionable to dump on Colin Kaepernick. Last season, it was fashionable to praise him. Now, it's Dump City.
We've heard the dumpage: Kaepernick is merely a one-read quarterback. If his first receiver doesn't get open, Kaepernick panics and runs, or panics and throws a crummy pass. He does not see the entire field.
More Kap dumpage: He is a running quarterback who hardly runs anymore. He's become timid or gun shy or maybe he just lacks imagination.
And this is the worst dumpage of all: Alex Smith could do better with the 49ers. Smith is undefeated with the Chiefs, and Kaepernick has lost three times and he's looking at a potential fourth loss next weekend in the Big Easy.
There is some truth to the Alex Smith dumpage, but only in a limited sense.
The Alex Smith Truth: His decision-making skills are superior to Kaepernick's. Smith reads the defense better pre-snap and sees the field better post-snap and certainly is better reading his progression of receivers. I guess that means Smith is pretty snappy.
But Kaepernick is the right quarterback for the 49ers and Alex Smith is not. Kaepernick took six sacks against the Panthers. Smith would have taken a thousand. Smith is Sack City. He is a deliberate quarterback and he hates to throw the ball unless the moment is perfect. Sometimes it's perfect and he still doesn't throw the ball.
So, don't blame Kaepernick for the Niners' crummy offense. Got that?
OK, who gets the blame?
The coaches, that's who.
Jim Harbaugh with a smaller portion of blame to offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
Why do the coaches get the blame?
First reason: Kaepernick is a young player, a quarterback who's still learning. The coaches are not teaching him right.
Second reason: The coaches install the offensive game plan, and the 49ers' offensive game plan is the pits.
If you want to dump on anyone, dump on Harbaugh and Roman.
Harbaugh held his weekly news conference on Monday. I was not able to attend — personal reasons — so Grant Cohn asked two questions for me:
Q: The offense ran one screen — it was a pass to Kyle Williams in the second quarter on a third-and-20-something. Why not call screens more often in this game and in general?
HARBAUGH: That's not a bad point. Point well taken.
Q: Colin Kaepernick bootlegged twice against the Panthers. Why not move the pocket more frequently, especially considering how fast he is?
HARBAUGH: That's something that is always in our game plan. That's another area we didn't have a good result. You bring up a great point which frustrates everybody involved in the unit when you're not in the rhythm picking up first downs and being able to get in deeper to your playbook — get into the screen, get into the movement game, keep things off balance. It's frustrating to all.
Those are fascinating answers. Harbaugh ducked most questions in the news conference — I know because I watched on television. He would not criticize Kaepernick, refused to discuss Eric Mangini, stuff like that. But he embraced those tough questions, and that says something good about him. He answers tough questions when they are about football and to the point.