Helpless in Seattle: Jim Harbaugh's Colin Kaepernick Decision Haunts 49ers

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 16, 2013



San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was touted as the sporting world’s next Superman in the wake of his dual-threat debut in 2012 that ended with an NFC championship and an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII.

But we all know Superman is helpless in the face of Kryptonite. And Kaepernick’s Kryptonite is a toxic cockail of geoduck clams, Thunderhead IPA, raucous Seahawks fanatics and the league's best defense.

Kaepernick and the 49ers are helpless in Seattle.

Superman looked like a Superbust as the Seahawks rolled to a 29-3 victory in front of Seattle’s raucous 12th Man Sunday night.  

It was San Francisco’s second trip to Seattle since Kaepernick took over as the team’s quarterback. It was also the second time they were humiliated behind a sub-standard offensive effort.

Kaepernick completed just 13 of 28 for 127 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT and a 20.1 passer rating.

In fact, Kaepernick’s 20.1 Offensive Passer Rating makes it the single worst passing performance so far in 2013, according to our Quality Stats Big Boards at CHFF Insider.

He also lost a fumble and produced a 28.5 Real Quarterback Rating, also one of the worst of 2013, despite a solid day running the ball.

Kaepernick and the 49ers edged out a trio of the league's worst quarterbacks for dishonor of worst team passing performance of 2013. Here are the three worst passer ratings of the year so far:

  • Blaine Gabbert/Chad Henne vs. Chiefs (Week 1) – 36.3 Offensive Passer Rating
  • Geno Smith vs. Patriots (Week 2) – 27.6 Offensive Passer Rating
  • Kaepernick vs. Seahawks (Week 2) – 20.1 Offensive Passer Rating

It’s worth nothing that Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers went 3-0 vs. Seattle when Alex Smith was his quarterback. Harbaugh’s 49ers are 0-2 vs. Seattle with Kaepernick at quarterback.  

Smith’s 49ers beat Seattle 33-17 in San Francisco (Week 1 2011); in Seattle 19-17 (Week 15 2011); and in San Francisco again 13-6 (Week 7 2012).

Kaepernick’s 49ers have not only lost twice, they’ve been humiliated each time. Seattle won 42-13 in Week 16 2012 before this week’s 29-3 debacle. Both games were in Seattle, where the Seahawks have proven the surest best in years.

The Seahawks are now 19-6 (.760) at home ATS in the Pete Carroll Era (since 2010) and 8-1 (.889) ATS at home since the start of the 2012 season.

But the 49ers are supposed to be better than the average visitor to the Pacific Northwest. And Kaepernick is supposed to be better than the average quarterback. In fact, Harbaugh based his future on the fact that Kaepernick was better than Alex Smith, the deadly effective quarterback he curiously benched in the middle of the 2012 season.

So far, the case that Kaepernick is better than Smith, or that the 49ers are better with Kaepernick at quarterback, is dubious at best.

Kaepernick and the 49ers have produced just 16 points in their last two games in Seattle, and just one junk-time touchdown that came in the final two minutes of their loss last December.

They represent the worst two losses of the Harbaugh Era, and by a wide margin.

Losses by Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers

Week

Oppt.

49ers

Oppt.

Difference

Week 16 2012

Seahawks

13

42

-29

Week 2 2013

Seahawks

3

29

-26

Week 6 2012

Giants

3

26

-23

Week 3 2012

Vikings

13

24

-11

Week 12 2011

Ravens

6

16

-10

Week 2 2011

Cowboys

24

27

-3

NFC title

Giants

17

20

-3

Week 13 2012

Rams

13

16

-3

Super Bowl

Ravens

31

34

-3

Week 14 2011

Cardinals

19

21

-2

Harbaugh’s 49ers have lost 10 games since he became head coach in 2011: eight by a combined score of 58 points. And then they lose their last two battles at Seattle by a combined 55 points.

Forget about winning in Seattle. The 49ers right now can't even compete in Seattle.

It certainly didn’t help that the 49ers couldn’t run the ball against the Seahawks, either. Kaepernick was nifty with his feet, as he usually is (9 attempts, 87 yards). But the rest of team produced just 13 rushing yards on 11 attempts. That’s just 1.18 YPA, for those of you keeping score at home.  

Naturally, when you can’t compete, it’s time to look at the elephant in the room: the quarterback.

Kaepernick has thrown 13 touchdowns in his nine regular season games. Good. But hardly Superman-esque by today’s standards. More than half of those (7 of 13) have come in two games: wins over New England last year and Green Bay last week.

And he has been downright dreadful in two games in Seattle, against San Francisco’s biggest rival right now. Here’s Kaepernick’s two games against the Seahawks:

  • 32 of 64, 50%, 371 yards, 5.8 YPA, 1 TD, 4 INT, 47.1 passer rating

The reality is that somewhere along the way the 49ers will have to win in Seattle if they hope to re-assert their claim as NFC champions.

And the reality is that Kaepernick will sooner or later have to prove that he can carry the 49ers against a good team when they can’t run the ball.

So far, we have little reason to believe he can do either.

Probably not a good time to remind 49ers fans that cast-off quarterback Alex Smith has been brutally efficient in two games with a new team under a new coach in Kansas City.

The 2-0 Chiefs have already equaled their entire win total of 2012, when they were 2-14. And Smith's performance is a big reason why.

He’s posted a solid 94.7 passer rating with four TDs and zero interceptions, and a strong 90.6 Real Quarterback Rating (he's boosted his passing with 82 yards rushing in two games and has not suffered a single turnover).

Granted, the Chiefs wins have come against the Jaguars and Cowboys. They've not faced the likes of a Seattle defense in front of the 12th Man.

But the reality when we compare apples to apples is this: Harbaugh’s 49ers went 20-6-1 with Smith at quarterback, including 3-0 vs. Seattle. Smith single-handedly produced two of the four most effective quarterback performances of 2012 before he was benched.

The 49ers have gone 8-4 in 12 games since. They've gone from deadly effective and even underrated to bright, sexy but inconsistent.

And they discovered that they are helpless in the face of Kaepernick’s Kryptonite in Seattle.


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