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Grant Cohn: 49ers' Colin Kaepernick needs instruction, not negotiation, from his coach

  • Jim Harbaugh huddles with QB Colin Kaepernick during the 49ers' loss at home to Carolina in November. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

I had to laugh at some of the things Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday at the NFL's owners meetings in Orlando.

Harbaugh said Colin Kaepernick is “one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL,” and he deserves the big bucks. “I think we all know what Colin's earning potential is,” Harbaugh said.

First, I have to laugh again. Those statements kill me every time.

Second, let me point out that Kaepernick's earning potential is not Harbaugh's concern. He coaches the players. That's his job. Make them better, Jim. Kaepernick's earning potential is the concern of Trent Baalke, Paraag Marathe and Kaepernick's agent.

Third, Harbaugh's logic is flawed. A team should pay a player based on what he's actually earned — his performance on the field — not based on the anticipation of what he may do.

The Packers gave Aaron Rodgers the big bucks after 93 starts, 179 touchdown passes, three Pro Bowl selections, four seasons in a row with a passer rating better than 100, an MVP award and a Super Bowl win.

Here are Kaepernick's accomplishments in comparison: 29 starts, 38 touchdown passes, zero Pro Bowl selections, zero seasons with a passer rating better than 100, zero MVPs and zero Super Bowl wins. Not the resume of a top NFL QB, and not someone who deserves the big bucks yet.

Kaepernick may become better than Rodgers one day and, if that day comes, then Kaepernick will merit the big bucks. But that day is way down the line. And there is some concern about Kaepernick's ability to fulfill his potential, especially under Harbaugh.

That's the real issue.

Can Harbaugh get Kaepernick to play up to what Harbaugh thinks Kaepernick's earning potential is?

Let me explain why there are doubts. I can describe five plays in just three playoff games that concern me.

In the NFC championship game in Seattle last season, Kaepernick threw an interception to the Seahawks' strong safety, Kam Chancellor, in the crucial fourth quarter when Kaepernick fell apart. Kaepernick dropped back, looked left and fired a pass to Anquan Boldin. But Chancellor was standing right in front of Boldin. Somehow, Kaepernick never saw Chancellor.

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