The Rise and Fall of Colin Kaepernick

In a rise that was nothing short of meteoric and a fall that was nearly as precipitous, the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick’s escalation to fame was faster than most professional athletes could ever dream of. From riding the pine to magazine covers to an injury landing him back on the pine, it was as tumultuous a crest as an athlete has ever experienced.

An all-conference multi-sport athelete in highschool, Kaepernick was an even better baseball player than football player. After passing up an MLB contract with the Chicago Cubs in 2009, Kaep went on to light up the fields in college, winning multiple awards, and breaking records as an electrifying running QB. In fact, Kaepernick is the only quarterback in the history of Division I FBS college football to have passed for over 10,000 yards and rushed for over 4,000 yards in a collegiate career. Kaepernick is also the only Division 1 FBS QB to have passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000 yards in a single season, three times in a career (consecutively). It seemed only natural that his prodiguous talents would take him to the heights the next level.

After being drafted in the second round at #45 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, the lanky project quarterback showed flashes of raw talent but was relegated to warming the bench while Alex Smith played the first string. But when Smith suffered a concussion in Week 9 in November 2012, Kaepernick was given his time to shine, and shine he did. With Smith still recovering, Kaepernick got his first NFL start the next game on November 19, during a Monday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears. Kaepernick completed 16 of 23 for 246 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 32–7 win against a vaunted and brutal Bears D. And with that, a QB controversy was born.

Smith eventually lost his job to Kaepernick, as coach Jim Harbaugh put all his faith in the new, young quarterback. The explosive playmaker eventually led the team through a remarkable and dominating playoff run, during which he set an NFL single-game record for most rushing yards by a quarterback with 181 yards, and broke the 49’ers single season rushing record. Teams and records fell as the Niners Kaepernicked all the way to the Super Bowl where they suffered a hearbreaking loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

After an offseason where the hype machine hit full and resounding thunder, the 2013 season was primed to be a lot for the quarterback to live up to. After and up and down season, Kaepernick managed to struggle his way into the playoffs before losing to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship in final seconds of the game. During the off-season, rumors swirled about organizational rifts and surmounting tension. Despite it all, Kaepernick signed on to a six-year, $126 million contract to start the 2014 season. The future was murky, but the 49ers were looking to stand behind their rising star. Unfortunately Kaepernick failed to bounce back and clocked in another season of ups and downs.

With Jim Harbaugh gone from the Niners and on to the University of Michigan after a contentious divorce, the 2015 season started with Jim Tomsula at the helm. With a roster decimated by injuries and conflict, Kaepernick’s struggles continued at the outset of the 2015 season. But as quickly as his rise began, it all came crashing down. By November 22 it became clear that the Kaepernick’s reign at Levi’s Stadium was all but over. In the blink of an eye, he was placed on the injured reserve list - with a torn labrum from Week 4 against Green Bay was listed as the culprit. Kaepernick underwent surgery shortly thereafter, his 2015 season coming to an unceremonious end.

Kaepernick's future seems unknown at this point, and his domination seems like a distant memory. But Kaepernick wasn’t the only one who lost his job, Jim Tomsula was removed as head coach at the end of this season after just one tumultuous year with the franchise. Just a year removed from a kingmaking contract, it's looking like Kaepernick’s days in San Fran are numbered.

Or are they? As of Thursday, in a stunning move, the Niners hired ousted Eagles head coach Chip Kelly to take the reigns of a team badly in need of a reset. Could Chip Kelly’s high-powered, no-huddle offense be exactly the second chance Kaepernick needs? There’s no doubt Kelly’s revolutionary offense suits his talents and athleticism to an absolute T. But only time will tell. One thing’s for sure though, everyone loves a comeback kid.