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Prior to the season, Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal wrote a story about the “crisis” of the NFL quarterback. The situation has gotten so bad that Clark wondered aloud if the classic NFL quarterback is about to go extinct.
The problem is that the college game has evolved so quickly into an up-tempo, high-scoring form of football that quarterbacks are regressing. While the style is effective at the college level, it requires a simplified offense to be effective, and in turn requires defenses to be simplified to keep up. The result is that quarterbacks are no longer coming into the NFL prepared to handle the slower, more complex nature of the pro game.
St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead told WSJ that, “it’s doomsday if we don’t adapt and evolve.”
So, when the San Francisco 49ers switched to a simplified, up-tempo offense for the 2015 season it was seen as one team making a move to bridge that gap. At the same time, the move was expected to help quarterback Colin Kaepernick who thrived in college using a simplified, up-tempo offense at the University of Nevada.
One way the 49ers have simplified the offense in order to speed things up is to change one of the most basic concepts of playing quarterback, something many of today’s young quarterbacks struggle with, play calling.
The 49ers’ goal is to get out of the huddle with at least 22 seconds left on the play clock in order to give Kaepernick more time to study what the defense is doing, according to Cam Inman of the Mercury News.
“An easy way to get out of the huddle is to have shorter calls,” offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said before the season.
While we don’t have any examples of the 49ers new simplified play calls, we do know they are composed of single-syllable words and are designed to be more easily digested by millennials who more effectively communicate in a 140-character society.
“We live in a more condensed, 140-character culture,” Chryst said. “My kids probably spell you as ‘U.’ So you try to take advantage of some of that.”
But so far, for Kaepernick and the 49ers at least, it is not working.
After a solid Week 2 performance against a weak Steelers defense in which Kaepernick threw for 335 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the last two weeks have been a complete disaster. In a pair of losses, Kaepernick has thrown for a total of 227 yards with no touchdowns and a whopping five interceptions.
Things have gotten simple that opposing players say it is “easy” to predict what Kaepernick and his receivers are going to do.
Arizona’s Tyrann Mathieu, postgame: “Their passing game has been simplified so much, it was easy for us to anticipate routes.”
— Bruce Jenkins (@Bruce_Jenkins1) September 28, 2015
The 49ers are now 1-3 and it is looking less and less like Kaepernick will see the end of his $126 million contract, a deal that always sounded a lot better for the young quarterback than it actually was.
Kaepernick will count as $16.8 million against the 49ers salary cap next season if he is still on the team. The team can save nearly $10 million in cap space if Kaepernick is cut before April 1, 2016.
Without a complete turnaround over the next 13 weeks, Kaepernick’s days with the 49ers are probably nearing an end.