Programming note: The 49ers are holding a press conference this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. to announce the extension. Watch it LIVE on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and streaming live right here.
Colin Kaepernick is rich! Rich, I tell you!
As though you, I or anyone else had any doubts.
Kaepernick’s contract extension, which is six years long, $60 million richer and another $66 million still to get, had to be done for one very simple reason – the 49ers have been all-in on Kaepernick since the day they declared that Alex Smith’s injury two years ago was life-threatening. He is their future as well as their present, and in case you wonder if this means that Jim Harbaugh’s extension is right around the corner, understand this:
Coaches are much easier to find than quarterbacks, and always have been.
But Harbaugh’s impending poverty is another story for another time. This is Kaepernick’s Christmas, so let’s deal with that.
When you’re given $60 million in guaranteed money, that is a risk – until the moment when you realize that the National Football League and its 32 client-states deal in play money every single day of its existence. Sixty million scoots is a nice piece of change, but it will not force Jed York to clip coupons for another three generations or so. In the NFL, everybody gets paid until the employers can figure out a way not to pay.
But when you’re given six years, that is a far greater commitment than mere money. Kaepernick is now The Man What Am for the 49ers through 2020 unless he gets hurt, or lost, or disillusioned with the nature of violent sports in America.
He’ll probably get hurt, because all players get hurt. He probably won’t get lost. And, well, violent sports are part of America’s cultural drug habit, so two out of three aren’t bad.
Now this is the point where you start issuing reservations, because that’s what fans reflexively do, like:
- “He hasn’t won anything yet.”
No, he hasn’t won one specific thing yet.
- “He isn’t a fundamentally sound quarterback.”
As though that is suddenly a disqualifier. No, he isn’t complete, in which case the only reason not to give him the money and years is a belief that he can never learn how to become one. It is far too early to assume anything about anything when it comes to Colin Kaepernick, except that he is so hard to replace in York’s eyes that he is willing to invest somewhere between $60M and $122M on the bet that he isn’t replaceable.
- “There are better quarterbacks in the NFL.”
And the 49ers will be getting none of them unless and until they become significantly worse than they currently are. Quarterbacks make the most because they are the hardest to find and keep.
- “That’s a lot of money.”
To most people, yes. Steve Ballmer, on the other hand, just spent the equivalent of 16.4 Kaepernicks to own the Los Angeles Clippers. It becomes your money if you buy tickets or buy food or park your car or buy sweatshirts. Otherwise, what the hell do you care?
- “He shouldn’t be paid until he wins a Super Bowl, as an incentive.”
Incentive is not how you get paid in sports. You get paid if your employer needs you that badly and cannot replace you with a cheaper version. Colin Kaepernick is currently the best Colin Kaepernick the 49ers can get, so he gets paid. Besides, if you’re trying to make the case that Kaepernick is insufficiently motivated to excel, you’ll need a lot more proof than the voices inside your head.
- “His off-the-field behavior makes him a risky signing.”
One, stop being your grandfather. Two, the National Football League throws money at far greater risks every single day. And three, QUARTERBACK. Do you get that part?
- “What about Harbaugh’s deal?”
I give up, what about Harbaugh’s deal? In addition, Harbaugh hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since he found Curtis Conway in the end zone 4,959 days ago. Kaepernick came within one throw of getting to the last Super Bowl.
In summation, you can have all the reservations you want, but this is how it works in the NFL. Colin Kaepernick may have gotten more than he deserved based on his resume to date, the risky nature of the job, the sheer madness of sports economics and a hundred other reasons, but he got exactly what he deserved for exactly as long as he deserved it because Jed York says it’s what he deserved.
Life is so much simpler when you think of it that way.