Super Bowl XLVII was not without drama and excitement, from Jim and John Harbaugh coaching the two teams, to Ray Lewis’ last game, to Beyoncé’s incredible halftime performance with a Destiny’s Child reunion, to intermission power outage that disrupted play at the New Orleans Superdome for approximately 35 minutes.
It also featured Colin Kaepernick as quarterback to the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, and a look at the game’s highlights on its 10th anniversary is one to remember what a unique talent he was and how in many ways he was a precursor to the kind of quarterback play that is now become the NFL norm.
Since Kaepernick started protesting in 2016, that a small subset of people did not approve of, A the myth spread that he was not really a good player and no longer deserved to be in the league at the time. Aaron Rodgers didn’t believe it. Not even Tom Brady. We’re not here to argue that he was in a class with Brady or Rodgers, but to say he was terrible is an outright lie.
No need to look beyond that Super Bowl. The Niners trailed 28-6 seconds into the third quarter after Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones returned the second half kickoff for a touchdown. Kaepernick had an interception in the first half, but the Ravens got no runs, turning the ball over on downs when kicker Justin Tucker mustered only 8 yards on a fake field goal attempt on fourth-and-9.
Facing the significant deficit in the third quarter after Jones’ touchdown return, the San Francisco defense stabilized and Kaepernick got to work. On the Niners’ second half possession, he ran 20 yards on the first two plays and completed a 9-yard pass to Randy Moss on third-and-8. An 18-yard lateral completion to Vernon Davis and a 31-yard TD pass to Michael Crabtree showed that Kaepernick was not going to quit after the huge deficit.
A 32-yard Ted Ginn Jr. punt return set up the 49ers well on their next possession. One pass to Davis and a 6-yard touchdown run by Frank Gore and suddenly it was 28-20. San Francisco came even closer when the Ravens’ Ray Rice fumbled the Baltimore 24 on his team’s next drive and the 49ers got a field goal from the turnover. San Francisco had scored 17 unanswered points in the third, with Kaepernick completing 6 of 9 passes for 107 yards and the touchdown.
Down 31-23 in the fourth quarter, Kaepernick ran for a 15-yard touchdown, backing then taking off quickly to the left sideline, punctuating the score with the bicep kiss that would become his trademark. A two-point try against Moss missed and the Ravens won 34-31.
While in his second season, the Super Bowl was only the tenth start of Kaepernick’s career. Jim Harbaugh had decided to stay with Kaepernick as starter even after Alex Smith returned from a concussion in November. Smith had been the starter when the 49ers played for the conference title a year earlier, but he was underwhelming in their loss to the New York Giants.
Harbaugh would not regret the decision. San Francisco went 5-2 to close out the regular season with Kaepernick running the offense, shutting down the NFC West and No. 1 seed. 2 of the conference playoffs.
As a quarterback, Kaepernick wasn’t much different than Cam Newton, who was drafted No. 1 overall in the same 2011 NFL Draft, Kaepernick finishing 36th. They were smart, they could pass and they could also run. They didn’t fit what was the QB prototype for decades.
Of the four QBs chosen from that duo, only Andy Dalton ever appeared in a playoff game. Kaepernick was six in two years.
In his postseason debut, the Divisional Round against the Packers, he rallied from a first pick-six and wrecked Green Bay, heralding his arrival on the big stage with 263 passing yards and 181 rushing yards on 16 carries , with two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. The rushing total was a record by a quarterback in any game, regular season or playoff.
A week later, Kaepernick and San Francisco traveled to face the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons, and he proved he can throw quite a bit too, completing 16 of 21 passes in a 28-24 win.
Kaepernick remained the starter going into the 2013 season and rewarded Harbaugh’s confidence in him. The 49ers were 12-4 that season, with Kaepernick throwing for 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions, adding four rushing touchdowns. In the playoffs the Niners faced Green Bay, this time at Lambeau Field in the wild card round, and once again folded and fought his way through the Packers. A divisional win over the Carolina Panthers followed, and San Francisco lost to eventual champion Seattle in the NFC title game, 23-17.
With less than two full seasons as a starter under his belt, Kaepernick had been to the Super Bowl once and to the conference championship game twice.
The 2014 season was a rocky one, with San Francisco missing the playoffs 8-8. Kaepernick had a career high in rushing yards, but also in sacks (52), and Harbaugh left at the end of the season, forced out by then general manager Trent Baalke after the two fell out. With the 49ers in shambles, hiring sole head coaches in 2015 and 2016, Kaepernick missed the end of the ’15 season and the beginning of 2016 with injuries that required surgery, but started the final 11 games of the season . With a poor receiving corps (to put it mildly), he threw 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.
That was also the year he began his racial and criminal justice protest, and a vocal minority of football fans whose voices were amplified by the right-wing media were bent on demolishing not just Kaepernick the man, but Kaepernick player. Everything he had done was forgotten, replaced by racist vitriol with no basis in reality.
Far less talented quarterbacks are still earning salaries, as starters and reinforcements, but for speaking on behalf of people who look like him, Kaepernick has been called a “son of a bitch” by the then president, rejected by a league in which he was a precipice of conquest, a league that has welcomed back those accused of domestic abuse and those accused of sexual assault, and some accused of both.
But for anyone who watched Super Bowl XLVII a decade ago, who saw the big arm and lanky legs rushing to the goal line, the bravado of a bicep kiss, and a fresh, effective style of play, all you have is seen was a player’s promise and excitement for what might follow.