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Here is Colin Kaepernick’s ANY/A average in each of the last four years:

kaep decline

Kaepernick won't listen to comments about his declining ANY/A

Kaepernick won’t listen to comments about his declining ANY/A

That is not a very promising graph. Last year, I wrote about how Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and RG3 were a unique trio of young quarterbacks who had declined in two consecutive years. Well, 2015 was where those quarterbacks diverged: Newton won the MVP, Griffin did not take a single snap, and Kaepernick continued his decline.

Kaepernick’s 2012-2015 represents just the 44th instance where a quarterback saw his ANY/A decline in three straight seasons (minimum 100 pass attempts each year). But he’s even an outlier in this group. He was one of just six quarterbacks who was younger than 25 at the start of the first season, joined by Pat Haden, Jeff Blake, Bernie Kosar, Rick Mirer, and Ken O’Brien. And he and Aaron Brooks are the only two players to have a dropoff of at least 0.5 ANY/A in each season.

Here’s how to read the table below, using Philip Rivers as an example. His four-year stretch began at the age of 28 in 2009, when he had an ANY/A average of 8.3. Over the next three years, that dropped to 7.77, 6.64, and then 5.45. His lowest decline in any of those seasons was 0.53 ANY/A, and this is the column by which the table is sorted. His total decline from Year 1 to Year 4 was 2.85 ANY/A. Finally, in the next season — what would be 2016 for Kaepernick — Rivers rebounded with a 7.79 ANY/A average. For players who did not have 100 pass attempts (and for Kaepernick) in season N+4, that cell is blank.

QuarterbackAgeYearANY/AANY/A +1ANY/A +2ANY/A +3LowestTotalANY/A +4
Aaron Brooks2720036.295.644.692.890.653.39
Colin Kaepernick2520127.556.655.584.940.632.61
Dan Marino3519966.656.115.544.910.531.73
Philip Rivers2820098.37.776.645.450.532.857.79
Pat Haden2319766.695.794.594.070.522.62
Jim Kelly3019907.56.956.055.580.471.925.28
Carson Palmer2620057.266.796.143.890.463.375.52
Mark Brunell2819986.355.875.515.130.361.225.78
Mark Brunell2719976.76.355.875.510.361.195.13
Steve Bartkowski3119836.285.274.923.470.352.81
Kurt Warner2819998.317.977.413.590.344.72
Billy Kilmer3519745.945.534.153.820.332.11
Ken Anderson3219817.436.55.595.270.322.16
Jim Kelly3119916.956.055.585.280.31.675.79
Rick Mirer2419944.683.853.560.510.294.17
Ken Anderson2619756.965.064.773.420.293.554.9
Marc Wilson2619835.354.574.293.860.281.485.73
John Hadl3319736.643.752.542.270.274.37
Boomer Esiason2819896.735.365.
Boomer Esiason2719887.796.735.365.10.272.692.7
Danny White2919816.465.865.634.420.232.045.32
Jay Schroeder2519865.835.354.864.640.221.197.24
Archie Manning3019795.565.393.512.520.173.04
Jeff Garcia3220025.915.755.173.870.162.047.11
Jeff Garcia3020007.346.655.915.750.161.595.17
Jeff Garcia3120016.655.915.755.170.161.483.87
Dan Marino2519866.996.856.426.070.140.916.22
Peyton Manning2920058.037.937.296.880.111.157.51
Peyton Manning2820049.788.037.937.290.112.496.88
Len Dawson3619715.793.93.793.570.112.225.02
Jeff Hostetler3319945.615.525.
Jeff Hostetler3219936.275.615.525.
Ken O'Brien2619865.635.044.964.530.081.15.4
Ken O'Brien2519856.65.635.044.960.081.644.53
Joe Namath3019734.894.823.
Joe Namath2919726.424.894.823.040.073.381.22
Stan Humphries2919945.835.785.184.830.051
Trent Green3320037.097.046.864.280.052.814.86
Drew Bledsoe2519976.
Bernie Kosar2419877.155.645.614.060.033.096
Billy Kilmer3319726.265.965.945.530.030.734.15
Billy Kilmer3419735.965.945.534.150.031.813.82
Jeff Blake2419945.875.865.394.850.011.03
Tom Brady3320108.258.257.486.1302.127.01

Kosar is probably the best comparison for Kaepernick, even if stylistically the two were very, very different. Kosar was a very talented quarterback physically, as is Kaepernick. Kosar reached three conference championship games by the age of 26; Kaepernick reached two and the Super Bowl by that age. Kosar’s decline was pretty significant, too: he led the NFL in ANY/A in ’87, was just above-average in ’88 and ’89, and then far below average in ’90. Kaepernick ranked 2nd in ANY/A1 in 2012, was above average in ’13, below average in ’14, and then bad in ’15. Overall, Kosar ranked just 14th out of 22 quarterbacks in ANY/A from ’87 to ’90 despite the dominant first season in that stretch, while Kaepernick ranked 22nd out of 36 from ’12 to ’15.

Kosar had some decent games after ’90, but he never really rebounded; he won just 11 of 32 games after that season (Incredibly, Kosar began his career with a 39-23-1 record and still finished his career with a losing record! (53-54-1).

A promising comp to Kaepernick would be Boomer Esiason. He was the MVP in ’88, saw his ANY/A drop by a yard in ’89, then nearly a yard and a half in ’90. In ’91, it dropped, and by ’92, it fell through the floor to just 2.70.  Yet he rebounded to play well with the Jets in ’93.  Jeff Garcia, Jay Schroeder, and Philip Rivers all saw their ANY/A increase by at least 2.0 in Year N+4.

But I’m not exactly optimistic about Kaepernick’s chances of turning things around.  His sack rate has gone up every year, and while the 49ers offensive line has clearly declined, that’s also a reflection of the lack of any improvement in Kaepernick’s game.  He was sacked on 10% of his dropbacks last year, the most of any player with at least 100 pass attempts last year. But I’ll throw this one out to the crowd: what do you think of Kaepernick’s chances of reviving his career, particularly if the proposed trade with Denver is contemplated?

  1. Minimum 215 pass attempts. []
  • Mistake in paragraph four: ” . . . using Brooks as an example. Philip Rivers as an example.”

    What worries me the most about Kaepernick is that Kelly doesn’t want him. Logically, it seems that Kelly’s offense, with its simplified reads and emphasis on quarterback running, should be a great fit for Kaepernick. Granted, I am assuming that Baalke/Kelly are generally competent and rational, assumptions they have both challenged in the past, but the idea that they don’t want him running that offense makes me think that he just in some way lacks the capacity to be an NFL quarterback.

    If he goes to Denver, it will be very bad for him. I expect Denver’s offense to be astonishingly bad next season unless they somehow pull off a trade for Aaron Rodgers (Imagine what that would take!). I think what chance he has to revive his career lies elsewhere, with a more creative offensive mind.

    • Fixed!

      Kubiak does have a reputation as a quarterback whisperer, so I suppose there are reasons to be optimistic. As you know, the Shanahan/Kubiak offense also has simplified reads and an emphasis on quarterback mobility, so it may be a better fit than are implying.

      • AgronomyBrad

        Fair point. I guess that kind of gets lost in the fact that manning was the QB last year.

      • Should Kubiak have that reputation, though? Leaving aside the larger question of whether there is any such thing as a quarterback whisperer, Kubiak’s resume outside of Shanahan’s shadow isn’t terribly impressive.

        Schaub was a fourth-year player who hadn’t been on the field much when Kubiak got him, so it’s really difficult to know how much he helped. David Carr may already have been a finished (bad) product when Kubiak coached him, but he didn’t show any improvement. Joe Flacco produced a season under Kubiak that was pretty much in line with his entire career except for his horrendous 2013. Manning obviously had the worst season of his career under Kubiak, though it’s pretty difficult to ascribe too much blame for that to Kubiak.

        It’s not a terrible record, but it doesn’t look particularly impressive. It looks better if you add in his Shanahan years of course, but then you get into the thorny area of how much credit should go to Kubiak vs. Shanahan.

        The offense being a good fit is a reason to be optimistic and it’s not like Kubiak has proven that he can’t develop a quarterback, but Kelly getting rid of him still worries me more than anything.

        • Lonestar47

          Fwiw those years after he left for Houston the Denver O was horrible in the red zone. the primary reason that Shanny got fired.

          Until he left we always thought he was just riding on mikes coat tales. But after he left MANY thought he was the real reason that Jake and the offense was so good Inspite of a OL that could not power block when they had to in the red zone.

  • AgronomyBrad

    After reading Peter King’s article this morning, I was just thinking this morning that it would be interesting to see how Kaepernick’s stats have deteriorated since losing the Superbowl, and here comes Chase Stuart, reading my mind. I thought it would be interesting to see how Kaepernick compares to Superbowl-losing quarterbacks in the years after they lost the big game.

    As far as his chances to revive his career… I always thought he was a mechanically flawed QB, but thought that good (or even decent) coaching could help him in that department. Obviously Jim Thomsula was not the right guy for that job. I’m not sure Denver would be the ideal fit, either. I feel like he could succeed if he was put with a patient coaching staff that played to his strengths (although I don’t exactly know who that would be).

  • Clint

    Coaching changes likely set Bernie up for his decline in wins. The production was generally still good, just a bit below where he originally was.
    Funny thing: Your average fan has no idea who Bernie Kosar is, but they could build a statue of him in Cleveland and most wouldn’t bat an eye.
    About Kaep, he’ll just need the right kind of coaching. He’d probably do fairly well in Denver. Manning and Osweiler are below average and it still worked.

    • sacramento gold miners

      Bernie Kosar was different from Kaepernick in the sense he wasn’t mobile, but was more football smart. He was also a QB who could throw from different platforms, and just barely missed getting Cleveland to back to back Super Bowls.

      Osweiler showed tremendous improvement from his brief QB appearances, and was being groomed as the heir apparent. I think Denver with Kaep and Sanchez are in danger of missing the playoffs completely this upcoming season.

    • James

      I think you mixed up cause and effect. Coaches were changed because there was a decline in wins.

      • Clint

        Haha. Just read our comments back to back. Smh.

  • The decline of Aaron Brooks is pretty fascinating. In 2003, he ranked 6th in ANY/A and was 27 years old. That sounds like a pretty good recipe for a quarterback to be above-average during his age 28, 29, and 30 seasons. But over the next three years, he ranked 23rd out of 29 passers (minimum 672 attempts): http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/psl_finder.cgi?request=1&match=combined&year_min=2004&year_max=2006&season_start=1&season_end=-1&age_min=0&age_max=99&league_id=&team_id=&is_active=&is_hof=&pos_is_qb=Y&pos_is_rb=Y&pos_is_wr=Y&pos_is_te=Y&pos_is_e=Y&pos_is_t=Y&pos_is_g=Y&pos_is_c=Y&pos_is_ol=Y&pos_is_dt=Y&pos_is_de=Y&pos_is_dl=Y&pos_is_ilb=Y&pos_is_olb=Y&pos_is_lb=Y&pos_is_cb=Y&pos_is_s=Y&pos_is_db=Y&pos_is_k=Y&pos_is_p=Y&c1stat=pass_att&c1comp=gt&c1val=672&c2stat=&c2comp=gt&c2val=&c3stat=&c3comp=gt&c3val=&c4stat=&c4comp=gt&c4val=&c5comp=&c5gtlt=lt&c6mult=1.0&c6comp=&order_by=pass_adj_net_yds_per_att&draft=0&draft_year_min=1936&draft_year_max=2015&type=&draft_round_min=0&draft_round_max=99&draft_slot_min=1&draft_slot_max=500&draft_pick_in_round=0&draft_league_id=&draft_team_id=&college_id=all&conference=any&draft_pos_is_qb=Y&draft_pos_is_rb=Y&draft_pos_is_wr=Y&draft_pos_is_te=Y&draft_pos_is_e=Y&draft_pos_is_t=Y&draft_pos_is_g=Y&draft_pos_is_c=Y&draft_pos_is_ol=Y&draft_pos_is_dt=Y&draft_pos_is_de=Y&draft_pos_is_dl=Y&draft_pos_is_ilb=Y&draft_pos_is_olb=Y&draft_pos_is_lb=Y&draft_pos_is_cb=Y&draft_pos_is_s=Y&draft_pos_is_db=Y&draft_pos_is_k=Y&draft_pos_is_p=Y and his ’06 season was legendarily bad.