SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Throughout the ups and downs of Colin Kaepernick's career as the 49ers starting quarterback, there's been one constant theme when talking to coaches and his teammates: No one works harder.
And after Sunday's 17-3 loss to the Packers, when Kaepernick's confidence appeared shaken leading to a number of poor throws, Kaepernick vowed to continue to work. For Kaepernick, getting back to work, whether it be self scouting or preparing for the upcoming opponent, is the best medicine.
"That’s the only way I know how to fix things, is go back to work," Kaepernick said after Sunday's game. "Talking about things, analyzing things, all that is good and has its place, but at the end of the day you have to work to get better."
Watching Kaepernick play football over the last two weeks, starting with Week 3's loss to Arizona, when he threw four interceptions, he looks like a player working too hard. Nothing is coming easy. Every play is frenetic. Every decision over calculated. It looks like he's trying too hard, like a golfer squeezing the club too tight and pulling a drive into the neighboring fairway. Nothing is coming easy.
Football is a unique sport, in that players are on the same schedule throughout a the 16-week season. For hitters that are struggling in baseball, they can take a day off from swinging the bat, and that can have positive effects on their slump. The same for basketball players, who are given games off to rest their legs, which might cause a string of poor shooting.
But that doesn't happen in the NFL, where working harder is the only fix. But sometimes, it might helpful to take a step back.
49ers head coach Jim Tomsula acknowledged that much Wednesday when talking about his struggling quarterback, whom he credits for how hard he works.
"I’m a firm believer the sword’s always sharp on both sides. Your biggest strength can sometimes hurt you," Tomsula said. "We’ve talked about that."
Through the first quarter of the season, Kaepernick ranks 32nd of 34 qualified quarterbacks with a 67.7 passer rating, easily the lowest of his career. But he isn't the 49ers' only problem on offense. The offensive line has been one of the worst in the NFL in protecting its quarterback, with Kaepernick getting pressured on 43.2 percent of his drop backs, according to Pro Football Focus.
He's taken 14 sacks through four games, putting him on pace to surpass his career-worst mark set last year when he was sacked 52 times, the second most in the NFL. He's been unable to help himself when he feels pressure, opting to run for a first down, instead of keeping his eyes on open receivers down field.
Wednesday, Kaepernick rejected the notion of taking a step back, a breather, from all that work that goes into being a starting quarterback in the NFL.
"Mental health for me is doing everything I can to help this team win. Sitting around, not doing anything, isn't something I've been too big on since I was young," Kaepernick said.
Kaepernick Wednesday defied the idea he's lost any confidence early in the season, despite the way he's played over the last two weeks. And considering the way Kaepernick's contract allows the 49ers to move on from him next season, there's been talk about his job security going forward, with some mentioning the team would be better off giving backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert a try.
"I don’t play for job security," Kaepernick said. "Whether football’s here or not. I will be fine. I go out, I play to win. I’m not worried about job security when I step in this building."
If the call to Gabbert is made, it will be Tomsula's decision, and not anyone else's within the organization. Tomsula made a point to be clear about that Wednesday.
"I do not have to clear that with anyone. It is 100 percent my decision," Tomsula said.
The 49ers travel to take on the New York Giants Sunday, in a primetime game that will be televised national on NBC. Any struggles Kaepernick has will be on full display. One of his battles this week is finding the line between being tentative while avoiding turnovers, and being able to agressively make plays to win the game.
"It’s something that, you’re going to have that in the back of your mind. You’re going to make sure that you protect the football," Kaepernick said. "I put our team in a bad situation in the Arizona game. I wasn’t going to allow that to happen again. It did cost us, yes. But that’s something I correct moving forward.”
Tomsula said, "I want a confident man, just full bore ahead at that position. I believe it’s critical. And I believe in the quarterback. I believe in him. I believe in Colin Kaepernick.”
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
E-mail Niners Digest: NinersDigest@gmail.com