WASHINGTON — In 2012, then-Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was lauded as a maestro of the NFL read-option offense, which gave Robert Griffin III a record-shattering rookie year and carrying then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to the Super Bowl.
When the clock struck midnight on the 2012 season, NFL defenses figured the system out, exposing both Griffin III and Kaepernick as above-average athletes with below-average quarterback skill sets. And after losing his job with one quarterback, Shanahan wanted nothing to do with the other, five years later.
“Colin’s had a great career, and he’s done some really good things,” Shanahan recently told 49ers media. “I think Colin has a certain skill set that you can put a specific offense to it that he can be very successful in.
“When we first looked at it, that wasn’t necessarily the direction I wanted to go. The type of offense I wanted to run was somewhat different and that’s why we went that type of direction.”
Since leaving the Redskins following the 2013 season, Shanahan has coached quarterbacks with skill sets ranging from Brian Hoyer to Matt Ryan. Shanahan values quarterbacks who fully buy into his system and make the right read. Hoyer is no Ryan, but the former will be joining Shanahan in San Francisco, and his accolades underscore the unstated deficiencies in Kaepernick.
“He’s obsessed with the game. He will learn your offense. He’ll be able to execute and run it,” Shanahan said of Hoyer. “If your quarterback can’t execute it and go through it, it doesn’t always matter what the O-line or the receivers are doing.”
“With Brian, you have a very smart guy who works at it, will hang in the pocket and is fearless, will keep his eyes down the field and deliver the ball to the right spots. It gives people a chance to be successful.”
Giving teammates and the young coach a chance to be successful. There’s little question that a fresh set of downs was best for Kaepernick and the 49ers, which is part of why the former star opted out of his contract before he could be cut.
But it’s also a shame to think that the offensive mastermind who once took the league by storm would rather hang his hat on more prototypical options.