|Posted on June 7, 2014 at 6:05 PM|
As the marketability of the NFL continues to reach mind-boggling heights, the San Francisco 49ers opted for box office over quality.
Enter Colin Kapernick and his recently signed, de-escalation clause ridden, $126,000,000 contract extension.
What the majority of media outlets have chosen to project is that the 49ers signed a fantastic, dynamic talent with "heigh ceiling" potential. The few who actually know what they're talking about (e.g. Steve Young) have gone on record to express their concern regarding Kaepernick's inability to throw the football at a high level.
"He's going to have to tie his legs in training camp. Literally, he should tie his legs, physically, so he can't do anything but throw from the pocket.” Young said recently.
Kaepernick ranked 31st in both passing yards per-game and completion percentage in 2013—earning him the ignominious distinction of becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to rank toward the very bottom of the league in production and accuracy, and towards the top of the league in salary. It's an embarassing distinction, but one that may make Kaepernick the highest paid—in relation to performance—quarterback on the NFL market.
The 49ers are no fools though. Kaepernick could under-perform in 2014 the same way he did in 2013, and the team would still stand to make a lot of money. The reality is, making money in the NFL is not all about winning. If that were the case, the Dallas Cowboys wouldn't be a more valuable franchise than the New England Patriots. The 49ers haven't won a Super Bowl in almost 20 years, but they're still a more valuable franchise than the Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.
Even if Kaepernick fails to adhere to the team's catch-clauses, he'll still probably make more money than his on-the-field performance is worth. If the 49ers reach the Super Bowl—regardless of how little Kaepernick contributes as an individual player—his "brand name" will continue to benefit the team on the marketing front. He's already won a "jersey sales championship"—outfitting the 49ers' loyal fan base with plenty of expensive merchandise to wear while they continue to sell out home games.
Kaepernick is as likely to sniff the "All-Pro" condition of his contract as Peyton Manning is to rush for 1,000 yards in 2014. Keep in mind, the 49ers can cut ties with him if he continues to under-perform on the field. He's been hyped up as a "duel-threat", which is convenient considering how misunderstood the label has become. Even when you add Kaepernick's 524 rushing yards to his 3,197 passing yards, his 3,721 total yards still rank well below the level of production delivered by Ryan Tannehill through the air alone (3,913 yards). Performance-wise, Kaepernick's much closer to Mike Glennon than an elite quarterback.
Kaepernick (2013): 243 of 416 (58.4) for 3,197 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
Glennon (2013): 247 of 416 (59.4) for 2,608 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
Kaepernick may have played a little better than Glennon, but the latter had anything but a strong organization and brilliant head coach supporting him. With nearly identical statistical outputs, do you really think Kaepernick out-performs Glennon if he played in Tampa Bay and the latter played in San Francisco? Would Kaepernick have led the Buccaneers to two straight conference championship games? The answer is obvious, yet he's frequently credited for doing so with the 49ers supporting cast.
Both sides benefited from this deal. Kaepernick will be grossly over-paid for services rendered, but the 49ers will utilize his "brand name" to it's highest potential—reaping the benefits of revenue as the team's elite defense and strong running-game keep their win-loss record high enough for the masses to overlook their quarterback's lack of production and consistency. In 2013, Kaepernick performed at a level akin to the Buccaneers backup quarterback—plus an average of 32.1 rushing yards per-game. The 49ers aren't paying him for what he's accomplished on the field. Kaepernick is a valuable commodity who's marketability makes him an asset to the organization.