NFL games are typically won by the best quarterback making cool-headed decisions in the pocket.
Colin Kaepernick has improved the more he takes snaps under center, but 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana wants San Francisco’s current starting signal-caller to continue to take strides in that area of his game.
The 49ers legend gave that assessment in a Thursday afternoon appearance on 95.7 The Game’s “Wheelhouse” show.
“He’s trying to transition from an offense that relies on him running the ball to one that tries to keeps him in the pocket,” Montana said of the differences between Kaepernick’s collegiate system to the one he’s running with the 49ers.
“He’s definitely talented enough to do it and has the ability, it’s just getting used to doing it,” Montana added.
Kaepernick has made strides from inside and outside the pocket in recent weeks. He’s completed 34 of 52 passes for 510 yards with four touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Montana noted that Kaepernick’s been going through the normal progression that all quarterbacks face in the NFL.
“There’s always a difference when you start off a year,” the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards said. “It’s a little different mindset and you know you’ve got all these games ahead of you. You’re going to have ups and downs. No matter who it is, you’re gonna see that every quarterback in the league goes through this, it’s not just Colin going through that.”
Kaepernick has faced a number of unique defensive schemes in 2013, many of which have crowded the line of scrimmage to take away his zone-read play-making ability.
Becoming an improved pocket passer is how Montana believes Kaepernick can create more opportunities as a runner.
“I think that’s the biggest transition for him,” Montana said.
“The worst part about it is everyone is talking to him about it,” the legend added. “So it’s not like he can relax and let it go and not think about it because everyone brings it up to him every day.”
Safety is also important for the 49ers quarterback Kaepernick's coaches have been monitoring the number of hits he takes within each game, including ones in the pocket and on quarterback scrambles.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman wouldn’t share any specific policy on protecting the quarterback, but did say the team monitors how many hits Kaepernick takes each week.
Kaepernick has rushed for 376 yards this season, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Roman approved of how his quarterback has made decisions on when to run and when to look downfield for open targets.
“I thought he’s done an outstanding job,” San Francisco’s play-caller said. “I thought last week’s game against the Rams was one of the best games, if not the best, he’s played big-picture-wise. Everything from soup to nuts, 'A' to 'Z,' I thought it was a magnificent performance on a lot of levels. So that was great to see.”
Kaepernick posted a 115.5 passer rating in the Week 13 win, his fifth rating of 100.0 or higher. The 49ers are 5-0 in those games in 2013 and 12-0 all-time when Kaepernick has a rating of 90 or higher.
With Sunday's matchup against the Seattle Seahawks getting closer, Kaepernick has another opportunity to showcase his development as a pocket passer with his full complement of receivers, a group that was not intact when the 49ers played in Seattle back in Week 2.