Kaepernick's read-option edge

Kaepernick: 'Our offensive line dominated up front'

Kaepernick's read-option edge
January 14, 2013, 10:45 am

You have the angle on him, and then three strides later, he has the angle on you. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

It seems odd to put the weekend in such terms, but the one game in which “competing like maniacs . . . with humble hearts” was the hybrid watchword also was the least dramatic.

Elsewhere, to choose one Harbaugh’s analysis over another’s, there was a wall of “football game(s) that did football proud.” But in San Francisco, the Humble-Hearted Maniacs produced this year’s last chance for the offense of the future.

Atlanta, Baltimore and New England enter the conference championship level with more classic pro-set dropback quarterbacks. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are utterly traditional, and Tom Brady is traditional at a higher rate of speed.

[REWIND: Instant replay - 49ers 45, Packers 31]

And then there is Colin Kaepernick, whose arm speed is rivaled by his foot speed for franchise value, and whose spidery stride perhaps even more so. He is the read-option quarterback who can throw, but he is very much a read-option quarterback.

And since styles make fights, the football tactician in us all will have a more enjoyable time watching 49ers-Falcons. We think. It could also be a blowout.

And it really really could. The sharps in Las Vegas have already bet the game up from San Francisco 1 to San Francisco 3 ½, and approximately 80 percent of all bets and money have come in on the 49er side. This is an enormous output of opinion on one side of a big game, and even more so when you realize it is coming in on the West Coast team going three times zones east.

That is how much Kaepernick has changed people’s minds about what quarterbacks can, and in the future will, do.

[RELATED: Kaepernick sets NFL QB rushing record in win over Green Bay]
 
The read-option’s introduction into the NFL actually predates Kaepernick’s rise to prominence. Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are all throwers who can run and runners who can throw – even more than the mold-breaker, Michael Vick. And if Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks had somhow managed to hold a 23-second lead, the evolution would have jump-started.

But for now, Kaepernick is the offense’s new face, because he has the one thing that the other read-option’s practitioners do not have – the deceptively long stride that makes the eight-yard sprint-out a 15-yard gain, and the 15-yarder a 50-yarder. You have the angle on him, and then three strides later, he has the angle on you.

And because he still has a powerful arm – most 49ers receivers probably would suggest that it is too powerful – he cannot be defended as a one-dimensional quarterback.

That is the problem that chases Mike Nolan, who drafted Kaepernick’s predecessor, Alexander D. Smith. That is the vision that drives the betting line. And that is why he becomes the game’s offensive future.

[RELATED: Maiocco -- 49ers' next stop is Atlanta]

With an asterisk.

The quarterback as runner loses the right to all the protections written into the game’s rules, and like it is every other position, a quarterback in flight is one hit away from being a fulltime recreational golfer. Kaepernick can run, and he runs as well in a different way as any other quarterback in the game.

The future of the read-option is not just his at the top of his game, but Griffin’s doing eight months of knee rehabilitation. The read-option may be the next great NFL offensive innovation, but it may also be a fad that reduces a quarterback’s lifespan into something more like a running back’s, where 29 is often retirement age.

That’s the big picture. The small picture is that Colin Kaepernick is the thing that’s not like the others, and people not currently employed by the Atlanta Falcons are quite smitten.

If you doubt that, ask a bookmaker. They’ll never steer you wrong, until you put your money on the felt. They like people who compete like maniacs, and they don't really care about your humble heart.