Kaepernick: The Rise and Fall

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By James Jones — Often times something that began with so much promise can come crashing down in a flaming pile of garbage. Such is the case with Colin Kaepernick’s time in San Francisco.

What was once viewed as moving ahead to the future at quarterback has been been reduced to a move that consequently, set the 49ers back in years lost and the ability to field a winning team.

You’d be hard pressed to find a 49ers fan, or even a fan of the game who doesn’t recall the excitement and fanfare that Kaepernick came with as he saw his first extended NFL action.

Then head coach Jim Harbaugh had demanded that recently fired GM Trent Baalke trade up in the second round of the 2011 draft and take the signal caller out of Nevada.

Harbaugh believed that he could mold Kaepernick into his quarterback when and if incumbent Alex Smith decided to leave, or he felt that the former was the better option.

Of course as we all know, Smith suffered a concussion in Week 10 of the 2012 season, Kaepernick hit the field and Harbaugh never looked back.

Since that time, Kaepernick’s career has been akin to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. He has gone from seldom used backup, to a player who was thrust into the limelight of a starter almost overnight.

He took the league by storm and led his team to a Super Bowl berth, falling just short of delivering a sixth title to the 49ers.

After the 2013 NFC Championship loss to Seattle he has become a parody and afterthought, one who will be testing the free agent waters this season, for the first time in his six-year career.

The timing could not be more perfect for San Francisco. With a new head coach and general manager, no quarterbacks on the roster (after Kaepernick completes his opt out) the new regime can virtually build the position in their collective vision, from the ground up.

The only circumstance that would be more enticing would be to have an elite, franchise quarterback already on the roster. With that not being the case, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have the chance to go out and find theirs, whether that be through trade, free agency, or the NFL Draft.

Kaepernick now carries with him the ire of many front office executives for his decision to sit/kneel for the national anthem during the 2016 season. Whether allowing that to factor into a team’s decision to sign him as a free agent or not is right or wrong is irrelevant. It’s true.

Opting out means that he won’t find any takers willing to pay him the $16.9 million he was due from the 49ers in 2017. However, that was a foregone conclusion anyway, with Lynch stating today in Indianapolis that the team would have simply cut him if he decided not to release himself from his restructured contract.

The announcement that Kaepernick will cease to kneel for the national anthem this season does little to change the fact that teams could shy away from him once free agency begins on March 9th.

The die has been cast and Kaepernick has no one to blame but himself. The die we are speaking of here has more to do with lack of quality play since 2013 than his decision to become a national sideshow.

You’ll remember that when he began his political statement, he wasn’t the 49ers starting quarterback. It lends to the question, was he truly devoted to the cause he was kneeling for or was he panic-stricken that he was going to completely fall out of the spotlight and needed a catalyst to keep his name relevant?

We’ll never know for sure, nevertheless, GM’s from around the league will and most likely already have formed their own opinions.

I believe it’s safe to say that John Lynch has as well.