franchise quarterback, taken with the first overall pick in the NFL write, goes down with an injury. An unheralded second-year QB takes his location. The original starter recovers from injuries, but by that time, he’s dropped his job to the young gun, who miraculously leads his team to the Super Bowl while the healthy veteran sits on the sidelines.
That’s the story of San Francisco 49ers phenom Colin Kaepernick’s surprising season. It’s also the 2001 story of the once-unheard-of sixth-round-pick named Tom Brady.
Stylistically, Brady and Kaepernick couldn’t be more different. The brand new England QB is a traditional wallet passer with the speed and speed of a phone book. Kaepernick, however, is one of the much-hyped “quarterbacks of the future, ” a guy with a great arm who’s just as dangerous running the ball. His 181 rushing yards contrary to the Packers this postseason were one of the most ever by a quarterback in a single online game.
But style apart, the two players share a striking similarity in the way their sophomore months played out.
Each player got his break only if an injury felled his team’s beginner. And in both cases, the starters had been playing at an elite degree before going down with injuries. However they remained second string even with being cleared to play.
In Brady’s case, he amazed the Patriots brass enough that they stuck with him even after Drew Bledsoe — who had for years already been the face of the franchise — returned from a collapsed lung he’d suffered in the team’s second game from the 2001 season. The Patriots picked Bledsoe first overall in the 1993 draft, and he soon became among the game’s leading quarterbacks, earning 3 Pro Bowl selections (he’d later get a fourth with Buffalo) and routinely finishing near the top of the league in passing yards. Heading in to the 2001 season, he’d thrown to get at least 3, 000 yards in seven consecutive years.
As for Kaepernick, he took over mid-season when Alex Smith went down using a concussion. Smith, the first-overall write pick in 2005, didn’t possess Bledsoe’s immediate, consistent success, however for the past two seasons he’d already been — statistically, at least — among the game’s best quarterbacks. In 2011, this individual posted a top-ten passer ranking while throwing the fewest interceptions of any starter. This year, this individual notched the third-best passer ranking in football, trailing only revered quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Smith’s completion percentage, at seventy. 2, led the league, and was one point off Received Brees ‘ single-season report. Technically, Smith didn’t qualify for the end-of-season leaderboards because of his reduced playing time — quarterbacks must average fourteen pass attempts per game to qualify — but he needed to attempt only six more passes to do so, suggesting his numbers are no aberration.
Nevertheless, like Bledsoe, Smith lost his job to a younger, promising replacement. “I feel like the only thing I did to shed my job was get a concussion, ” Smith has said of his benching.
Though hotly debated, each decision paid off, with all the Patriots and now the 49ers rolling through the playoffs, both, coincidentally, since number two seeds. Kaepernick will now play for a Super Bowl championship in New Orleans’ Superdome — the very same field where Brady gained his first title.
The only thing needed to complete the evaluation (aside from the 49ers winning the title, obviously) is for the 49ers to trade Smith in the arriving offseason, as the Patriots did along with Bledsoe. Wouldn’t you know it, based on reports this week, the 49ers are already discovering that very prospect.