Boclair: Locker vs. Kaepernick — two very different starts

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 10:05pm

Colin Kaepernick is making liars out of the Tennessee Titans.

From the moment they selected Jake Locker with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft through the final week of the mostly forgettable 2012 season, just about everything they have said has turned out to be false.

That’s not to say the Titans were wrong to go with Locker ahead of all but one other quarterback (Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton) and 28 spots before Kaepernick was picked. It just means that the pressure on Locker to prove them right — and soon — intensifies at almost the exact moment Super Bowl XLVII ends on Sunday.

Coach Mike Munchak consistently preached patience and the value of experience given that Locker currently has started just 11 games, less than a full season’s worth. In one of those games, against Houston, he did not last five minutes before he sustained a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the next five games.

It sounds nice except that Kaepernick had exactly seven starts when he took the field for the first time in the postseason.

While inexperience might have been a factor in an early interception that was returned for a touchdown, he certainly showed plenty of poise and savvy when he rallied the 49ers to a 45-31 victory over Green Bay in that one. Likewise, he was anything but rattled when he and his team fell behind by 17 points to Atlanta in the NFC Championship, a game they eventually won 28-24.

It’s similar to the notion that Locker’s appeal in the draft was enhanced by the fact that he had experience in a pro-style system while at the University of Washington. That, the thinking went, would help him absorb an NFL offense and learn to read NFL defenses quicker than most.

Kaepernick played nothing resembling a pro-style offense while at Nevada-Reno, where coach Chris Ault pioneered the pistol formation and employed the read option — with great success, by the way. Kaepernick finished his college career with more than 10,000 passing yards, more than 4,000 rushing yards and more than 140 total touchdowns.

That did not stop him from completing 70 percent of his passes (69.6 percent, to be exact) in his first NFL start and 62.3 percent for the season. Likewise, it did nothing to limit his passer rating, which topped 100 in four of his seven starts.

Locker actually connected on 71.9 percent of his throws in his first start but finished the season at 56.4 percent. Only once did his passer rating top 100.

To be fair, Kaepernick and Locker do not exist in vacuums. There is no such thing as a straight-up comparison between the two.

The former is on a team that came within a game of the Super Bowl last season and was 6-2-1 in 2012 before he became the starter. He operates behind a stout offensive line that features three first-round draft picks.

Not one of Locker’s blockers started all 16 games this season, and in the final few contests he played behind one or two guys who were not on anybody’s roster back in Week 1. His team has not been to the postseason since 2008 and has not won a playoff game since 2003.

Still, Kaepernick, despite his perceived disadvantages in relation to Locker, has helped make a good team better while the Titans went in the other direction and won three fewer games than the previous season.

No one said it was going to be easy for Locker, and that has turned out to be all too true. It’s one of the few things that has.

1 Comment on this post:

By: courier37027 on 1/29/13 at 9:46

That's okay, because everybody keeps saying Locker has a cannon for an arm. 49ers, you keep that conference championship and Super Bowl berth. The Titans have a cannon, a diamond in the rough, a project under development. Those, my friends, are the intangibles. Colts, you go ahead and keep Andrew Luck. Titans have someone who knows how to play through adversity. Someone who can step up and bring it to the table. If John McClain and Plaz say Locker is the future, by golly we are on board.

There you go, Titans apologists. Now go and call the talk shows.