Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick bring new blood to Super Bowl
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com January 20, 2013 10:49PM
Updated: January 21, 2013 4:25PM
It might not seem like it at first, but this is what you want, Super Bowl fans: a matchup of quarterbacks so new, fresh and on the cusp of something big that there’s no chance you’re going to be bored in the title game.
Between them, the Baltimore Ravens’ Joe Flacco and the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick have played seven seasons in the NFL (five for Flacco, two for Kaepernick). But that very newness is refreshing and signals the arrival of at least one and maybe two new stars.
And think about it: Change must come. The old guard always will be vanquished. It is sad to see an icon such as the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady go up in flames in the AFC Championship Game at the hands of the underdog Ravens. It is sadder still to think Brady might not reach a magical sixth Super Bowl.
But so it goes. There was a time when Brady was the young gun, knocking off big names such as Kurt Warner and the like.
Sure, you know who Flacco is. But he never has been considered an elite leader, not somebody to sit at the table with the greats. But that might be because he still is launching his career, harnessing his arsenal at age 27.
Consider that the guy never has missed a start in five seasons and already has played in a remarkable 13 playoff games. Consider also that Flacco steadily has been blazing his trail, winning 54 regular-season games, the most by a quarterback in his first five seasons.
Kaepernick? You never had heard his name until the week before the 49ers’ game Nov. 19 against the Bears on ‘‘Monday Night Football.’’ It was his first game as a starter, and he chopped the Bears to bits.
Back then, the Bears were leading the league in takeaways with a ferocious defense that was tough for even veteran quarterbacks to face. But Kaepernick completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and finished with a 133.1 passer rating in a 32-7 rout. He only rushed four times for 10 yards that night, but he made some throws on the run that only a superb athlete
Imagine that there was a question about whether Kaepernick even would start again, considering injured 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was ready to return from the concussion that had dropped him from the lineup in the first place. Credit 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh with seeing the potential in Kaepernick and having the guts to bench Smith, who had been playing well.
So here they are, the new guys under the microscope.
Let’s start with their similarities. They’re both big — Kaepernick is 6-4, 230 pounds and Flacco is 6-6, 245 pounds — and both have cannon arms. Flacco often is said to have the strongest arm in the league, but Kaepernick was a pitcher with a 94 mph fastball back in high school.
Both men are reticent, even reluctant, to spew much more than the usual clichés that fill sports reporters’ notebooks. Flacco has said he doesn’t watch TV highlights or read sports pages and has told his parents not to pay any attention to that stuff, either. Kaepernick has more messages on his tattooed arms — most of them from the Bible — than he does in his interview sessions.
If Brady and, say, Drew Brees had made this Super Bowl, their mouths never would stop moving, graciously giving the gluttonous media world as much as it could handle. With these two guys, though, we might need puppet shows and free beer to fill the silent spaces. But that’s OK. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and 49ers running back Frank Gore will help us through the verbal crisis.
Another similarity: These new guys are winners. And isn’t that the point?
Kaepernick has what they now call ‘‘foot speed’’ — something Flacco lacks — and is a crazy threat off the read option, which used to be limited to high school and college because it often puts the quarterback in jeopardy. Kaepernick, though, doesn’t care. In a playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick ran for an astounding 181 yards, an NFL record for a quarterback.
He didn’t need to run a lot against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, but his fakes and the fear of his running did the trick.
The matchup should be nice, folks.
By the way, did you know the Patriots were 67-0 when leading at halftime at home with Brady at quarterback? That is, until Flacco beat them Sunday with three touchdown passes and a near-flawless game.
It happens. Change is good.