The last thing football fans remember about Colin Kaepernick is his benching in 2017. Since then, the QB hasn’t been able to find a job in the NFL. Kaepernick is now more well known as an activist against police brutality than a football player, but many fans forget how effective the dual-threat quarterback was for years in San Francisco. In fact, Kaepernick was so impressive in his first few seasons with the 49ers that Pro Football Focus rated him the most valuable player on the team over the past decade.
Colin Kaepernick almost won a Super Bowl with the 49ers
Kaepernick is most recognized for his national anthem protests in the NFL and ongoing activism within the Black Lives Matter movement, but he was considered a top quarterback in the league a few seasons ago.
Kaepernick first earned the starting job for the 49ers in the middle of the 2012-13 season. He led San Francisco to a 5-2 record to finish the season, but he wasn’t done there. Kaepernick went on to lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance later that season.
In the end, the team fell short to the Baltimore Ravens. But 49ers fans across the country believed they had their answer at quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Kaepernick followed up his stellar first season with an equally impressive 2013-14 campaign. The rising star led the 49ers to a 12-4 record and another NFC Championship appearance. San Francisco again fell short of a title, but making two straight conference championship games is no small feat.
Kaepernick led the 49ers to 2 of their best seasons of the decade
Much of the 2010s was filled with heartbreak for 49ers fans. San Francisco had five losing seasons in the decade, but it also reached four conference championship games and two Super Bowls. Somehow, the 49ers still couldn’t come out of the decade with a Lombardi Trophy.
Alex Smith led the 49ers to an NFC title game in 2011-12, and Jimmy Garoppolo made it to the Super Bowl last season, but only one QB made it to both an NFC title game and a Super Bowl during the 2010s. Kaepernick did it in back-to-back seasons.
Although he never won the big one, Kaepernick was the most successful quarterback of the decade for the 49ers. His legacy would be much different today had he won that Super Bowl in 2013, and he probably would still be in the NFL today.
Pro Football Focus rated Kaepernick the 49ers’ most valuable player of the 2010s
Kaepernick wasn’t just the best quarterback on the 49ers for the last decade from the eye test. He was actually rated the team’s most valuable player based on Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics.
Kaepernick had the highest WAR of any 49ers player in the 2010s, according to PFF. WAR, or wins above replacement, measures how valuable a specific player is to his team’s success. Over the course of the last decade, no 49er ranked higher than Kaepernick.
The now-unemployed QB threw for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns in his career in San Fransisco. He also broke the all-time record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game (181). And he did it in a playoff game.
The 49ers don’t have the success they had in the 2010s without Kaepernick. Although his final games left a sour taste in the mouths of NFL fans, his prime years made him the most valuable 49ers player of the last decade.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference