I would like Jed York, Trent Baalke and Paraag Marathe to clean my house. They obviously have little patience for untidy things, and I will happily put their administrative problem-solving and cleaning skills to work in time for the holidays.
They gathered today, on one of those news days when there is enough cover to make people look the other way (Big Game, college football showdowns, Warrior aftermath, the world in general) and put now former quarterback Colin Kaepernick on their injured reserve list, meaning he is for all effect and purpose an ex-49er.
Evidently Kaepernick wanted to get surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, no doubt to impress future employers since his current ones have clearly cut bait on him, so the 49ers shelved him to do so. Thus ends one of the most idiosyncratic gambles in modern NFL history, in an ash heap of misjudgment, blame delegation and arse-covering whose end game began the day Blaine Gabbert was named to start the Atlanta game.
This is not to exonerate Kaepernick, whose collapse from the waiting room of the elite is among the most spectacular in modern sports history. His swashbuckler’s confidence dissipated in a flood of advice from people who apparently understood his gifts better than he did, and his transition from prospect to phenomenon was as swift and odd as his transition from superstar to suspect.
But he went from one play short of a ring to the victim/perpetrator in a rancid situation in 21 months, and no one person gets to take all the blame for that. Jim Harbaugh cast Alex Smith aside because Kaepernick’s promise was irresistible. Greg Roman tried to expand his repertoire to include pocket and progression awareness. York fell in love for the same reason, and Baalke tried to shine the diamond by bringing in players and coaches to make him the uber-quarterback. Jim Tomsula was given Kaepernick’s quarterback coach, Geep Chryst, as the offensive coordinator to make Kaepernick all of those things.
And in the end, they all made it worse. Much worse. In fact, here you may add Marathe, since the ownership-friendly contract he designed served his employer brilliantly but put a clock on Kaepernick’s window that the 49ers were eager to act upon. By putting him on IR, they no longer have to worry about some untoward injury to Blaine Gabbert that would force Kaepernick back into the game, where an injury could stick the team with the full remainder of his contract.
And trust us on this, the 49ers are being run by businessmen now, even in ways that they weren’t when York’s father John operated the team.
Now maybe there is a team that can see the latent greatness in Kaepernick, acquire him for a brief medley of tunes, and develop him as he was never developed in San Francisco. That story may become an episode of “A Football Life,” or a bunch of brief pregame vignettes, because nothing is quite so enduring as the myth-making powers of the National Football League.
Or he may never find what he showed for those 33 games at the height of his powers. He may be a lifetime backup, or he may fade from view in slow motion. In that case, he may become an episode of “A Football Life,” or a bunch of brief pregame vignettes on slow weekends, because the NFL can paint tragedy as well as triumph.
But his 49er years have been reduced to prelude, setting up whatever his future may be within a color-by-numbers had-it-all-lost-it-all narrative that’s been done time and again. He is a minimalist Gale Sayers without the knee injury, and Greg Cook without the rotator cuff injury. He is lots of modern quarterbacks in an era in which the colleges play a different type of offense than the NFL demands.
And he is Jim Harbaugh the 49er –- a supernova whose essential being was ultimately adjudged extraneous to the company’s needs. Only this time, the team didn’t need three years, but barely two, to make up its mind.
Which is why, ultimately, I want them to come by, shampoo the rugs, organize the garage, check the gutters and trim the hedges. They’re getting good at this -– very, very good.