More than 40,000 passing yards. A 63.2 career completion percentage. Two hundred seventy-three touchdown passes. A career passer rating of 92.3. Four Super Bowl championships and three Super Bowl MVP awards.
Any way you cut it, Joe Montana is one of the absolute greatest to ever play the game. He is a veritable 49ers legend, and is permanently entrenched in any discussion of the greatest quarterback in NFL history. His opinions on the sport of football carry weight and significance. In fact, he’s probably forgotten more about football than most people will ever know.
That’s why his latest comments about Colin Kaepernick’s future as an NFL quarterback are so impactful.
Talking with reporters Tuesday while promoting FanDuel’s new golf offering, Montana revealed why he’s dubious about the prospect of Kaepernick finding a team for the rapidly approaching 2017-2018 NFL season.
“I’m not sure [Kaepernick will be on a roster], I think [if] there’s an injury somewhere he probably gets in,” Montana told Sporting News.
“In most cases, you look at Tim Tebow — a great guy and everybody was talking about him. But what it comes down to is 40 percent completion or even in the low 50s, you can’t win in the league with that. You won’t be in the league very long. It comes down to his play as much as anything.”
Montana told USA Today’s For the Win that Kaepernick’s style of play is also a problem.
“That style of quarterback, everybody thought was going to take over the NFL,” he said. “You look at guys who had success in college, that only had success one year. Usually those guys, the next year, it’s very difficult on them.
“The league has figured out how to defend it. If I’m playing defense, I want the quarterback to run so I can hit him. In the pocket, you can’t really hit him.”
And whether it’s a deterioration of skill, teams’ having better scouting on him or a combination of both, Kaepernick’s play has been sorely lacking the past couple of years. You don’t cede a starting job to Blaine Gabbert unless something is seriously wrong. Yes, on the surface, Kaepernick’s numbers look perfectly respectable. But a deeper dive reveals that Kaepernick struggles with short-to-medium passes, third-down completion percentages, playing with a lead and second-half accuracy.
But according to Montana, it goes even deeper than on-field play.
“Everyone thinks it is the stance he took; one of the things you don’t look for is distractions in the locker room. You can go back to Bill Walsh and as soon as there were guys that weren’t fitting in what he was looking for, it didn’t matter how good you were. You weren’t on the team for very long. You have to have people who want the same thing, fighting for the same thing and willing to put in the time,” Montana told Sporting News.
Ultimately, though, Montana opined that there are really only two types of teams in the NFL: There are those competing for championships, and those that are rebuilding. And the sizable distraction that Kaepernick creates doesn’t fit in the blueprints for either of those types of teams.
A championship-caliber team is doomed no matter what if its starting quarterback gets hurt. There’s no use in fielding a replacement who stirs controversy and negative publicity. As for a rebuilding team such as the San Francisco 49ers?
“I think changes were necessary there,” Montana said. “I think it will take a year or so to get those guys understanding the system, how it works. I think there was a lot of loss for the game over the past few years with all the distractions, with Colin and all those things.
“They needed to clean house, [and get] a different atmosphere in that building.”
So if a championship contender has no use for restructuring an established offense for a run-first backup quarterback, and a rebuilding team needs a completely clean slate devoid of distractions or controversy, what’s left for Colin Kaepernick?
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