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Ten-Point Stance: Kaepernick makes Niners' Harbaugh look good

by | National NFL Insider
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San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh loves to toy with the media. Loves being the smart ass. The junior Bill Belichick. Now you get the feeling Harbaugh's quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, is enjoying doing some of the same.

His responses after another excellent performance, this time against New England, were wonderfully one-sentenced, just the way Harbaugh likes it.

Michael Crabtree is consistently your most targeted receiver, is there a reason for that? Kaepernick was asked after a career-changing victory over the Patriots on Sunday.

"He's open."

And this is how his Patriots postgame press conference went. It was actually kind of funny. Then came two answers to questions that give some nice insight into how Kaepernick thinks, why this 4-1 run of his isn't a fluke, could be a huge reason why the 49ers reach the Super Bowl and why Harbaugh's faith in Kaepernick was right.

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Kaepernick was asked if he ever stops and pinches himself. "It is a little bit crazy, a little bit surreal," he said, "but I'm trying to keep my head down and trying to keep it going as long as I can."

That answer showed maturity.

Then Kaepernick was asked if he was ever flustered. "This is my 17th year of football," he said. "I've been playing since I was 8 years old. So to me, I am going to go out there and throw to the guy who is open. You try to keep football simple so your mind can be clear when you are on the field."

That answer showed confidence.

The main reason the 49ers are good is because of their explosive defense. What Harbaugh wanted was an equally explosive component on offense. All of the great offenses in football have that -- the Patriots, the Packers, the Giants (at times), the Saints.

Kaepernick gives the 49ers that. Also, Harbaugh didn't think it was as big a risk replacing Alex Smith with Kaepernick as others did -- and still do.

Harbaugh: "... He had a great understanding of the offense from the very first time he went out and took a snap this season and then from the time he took his first start until now. Definitely the game experience, the playing play after play, exposes you to different situations. That's good for you, it's going to lead to improvement. I wouldn't call it dramatic improvement. I think he's been at a pretty high level."

This is the point many missed when Harbaugh made the switch: Kaepernick, in the opinion of the coaches, was already at the level of the man he replaced. A few starts in, he passed Smith. Five games later, Smith is clearly in his rearview mirror.

Harbaugh rightly explained that Kaepernick has already seen "all kinds of scenarios -- backed up, coming off your own half-yard line. He's seen those situations and every time our offense has been backed up inside the 10-yard line, we've moved it out for at least one first down. Red-zone situations, come back after a turnover, come back after an interception, come back after having success with a quick scoring drive, a long scoring drive. He's been in a lot of situations -- two minute before the half, two minute at the end of the game. All those things ... he's experienced in only four starts."

Kaepernick threw four touchdown passes against the Patriots. Smith has never thrown four TD passes in a game. That's the explosiveness Harbaugh was looking for. Smith was a plodder and there are great benefits to being a plodder, but plodders don't beat Tom Brady. Thoroughbreds do.

Kaepernick allows the 49ers to do something no one believed possible until now: get into a shootout with any team in football, and win.

And this is the truly scary part: Kaepernick will only get better and only further prove Harbaugh made the right choice.

2. Not sure how Jets owner Woody Johnson can look at his team, after that putrid performance against a putrid Tennessee team, one of many foul, smelly Jets performances, and not make massive changes this offseason no matter how much money it will cost him. Keep this in mind: Mark Sanchez has a combined 109 interceptions and fumbles in four years and 50 turnovers in his past two.

3. Jets player on Sanchez: "I've never seen a guy lose his confidence to this level. It's gone. He's playing scared."

4. It's good to see the Cowboys come to their senses and keep Josh Brent off the Dallas sidelines. Brent is of course accused of driving drunk and crashing his car. Teammate Jerry Brown died in the crash.

It's fine that teammates want to support Brent, but having a guy who is accused of killing a man after reportedly having a blood alcohol content more than double the legal limit on the sideline, well, what message does it send to have someone who is essentially an accused killer on the sideline?

How did it happen? After speaking with several league sources it's clear teammates got Brent on the sideline without clearing it through the team. Despite publicly saying they support Brent being there during the game, the Cowboys were actually very uncomfortable with it. You're talking about an owner that likes to be (and appear to be) in control of every aspect of the team, so when Brent appeared without the permission of Jerry Jones, it did not go over well, despite Jones saying publicly he was fine with it. Considering that, and the public criticism that ensued, it was no surprise the Cowboys reversed course.

5a. Champ of the week: All of the NFL teams and players that honored the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings.

5b. Chump of the week: The Jets. The entire franchise. Except the equipment person. That person is exempt. And maybe the ticket manager. Cheerleaders, too. But everyone else is in chump territory

5c. Tweet of the week: Ignorant fan tweets this to Jets safety LaRon Landry: "you are a f------ loser. Always will be. Not a coincidence what's happening in DC with you gone. You'll never play for a winner." Landry's response: "thanks for following." Love that response for two reasons. One, I like it when athletes show the ignorance they face from some foul-mouthed trolls. Two, Landry handled it the right way, with humor and sarcasm.

6. Nick Saban on NFL rumors and that he's content with staying in college: "No matter what I say, nobody ever believes me." Well, there was this.

7. Jordan Black, lineman for the Washington Redskins, is serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy for performance-enhancing drugs. Black has blamed everyone for his suspension: the NFL, the NFL's lawyers, websites, Santa, the Mayans, bunnies, bubble gum, sunshine and furry gophers. He has blamed everyone but himself. This continues to be a tactic of accused drug cheats. Didn't do it. Nope. Not me, bra'. That needle in my ass? Not mine. Didn't do it. Seriously, think about it, when is the last time someone suspended for PED use said: "Yeah, you know, that two-gallon jug of HGH you found in the front seat of my car was indeed mine, and my spiked HGH levels that were so high I grew ovaries, yeah, dude, all on me."

Here's one important point for Black. He is blaming the failed test on a legal prescription drug for a medical issue. He has said this on the record, but won't say what the drug is. It's convenient to say that prescription drug caused the failure but not say what the drug is.

The NFL screws up. We know this, and maybe Black is innocent, but let's hope for a day when a player says: My bad. I did it.

8. One name that has been forgotten in the MVP race but shouldn't be: Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are starting to get healthier and scarier and Rodgers kept the team competitive during some brutal moments this season for Green Bay.

9. Scout: "Adrian Peterson is the 21st century Bo Jackson." Interesting, and Bo Jackson was Jim Brown 2.0.

10. The Dolphins are making a huge push to get Super Bowl L in 2016. The Palm Beach Post reports the team will use three ex-players to garner community support: Dan Marino, Bob Griese and Jason Taylor. The names don't get much bigger than that in the Miami area.

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