Here is Colin Kaepernick’s ANY/A average in each of the last four years: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.
|Quarterback||Age||Year||ANY/A||ANY/A +1||ANY/A +2||ANY/A +3||Lowest||Total||ANY/A +4|
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?