John Madden will be keep a close eye on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick… (Ida Mae Astute / Associated…)
On my drive from 49ers to Raiders training camp last week, I stopped in San Francisco to see John Madden, who typically spends a few days a week at his condominium in the city. He prefers the cool, foggy weather in summer to the relative heat of the East Bay, where he has a home.
Madden, the Hall of Fame coach, broadcaster and video game magnate, is particularly interested in watching San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick this season. Madden followed him closely when Kaepernick was at Nevada, if only because his games were on TV so frequently.
“It’s a funny thing, but if you’d ever be flipping through the channels and didn’t know what you wanted to watch, Nevada always played,” Madden said. “They’d play on a Wednesday night, Thursday. When you didn’t expect a football game, Nevada was on TV. So I probably saw Nevada play when Kaepernick was there 20 times. He was a great college player and he didn’t get any play."
Kaepernick was a second-round pick of the 49ers in 2011. Before that draft, Madden gauged the interest of his old team, the Raiders, in selecting him.
“When I watched him, he had a strong arm," Madden said. "You knew that. There’s a thing where a guy doesn’t have a strong arm, or the guy’s too small, or he can’t run – Kaepernick could do all those things. I remember I said to Al [Davis],'What’s wrong with Kaepernick?' And Al said,'Nothing.' But I think Kaepernick was just under the radar.
“I always wondered, what was wrong with him? Because I couldn’t see anything wrong. I just thought, there must be something wrong with him because he was never in play [among the top prospects]. Wherever the line was, he was next guy.
“I remember when he started I said,'This guy’s an interesting guy.' As you peel the onion back on this guy, you’ll see that he’s an interesting, different type guy.
"I've become a fan of Colin Kaepernick."
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King did a good job of peeling that onion in a Kaepernick feature that ran last week launching King’s new website, TheMMQB.com. The normally guarded quarterback opened up about his life, his tattoos and his team’s Super Bowl season.
Madden, for one, thinks we’re watching something phenomenal in 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh, something that surfaced in 2011, Harbaugh's rookie season as coach, when he turned around a franchise that finished 6-10 a year before.
“We tend to put everyone in the Hall of Fame when they have a great game, or say everyone’s great when they do one good thing,” Madden said. “I kind of think that Jim Harbaugh’s first year, by getting to the championship game was the best coaching job in the history of the NFL.
“Just in my mind, the time that I’ve studied the game, someone that had all those things stacked against him. There was a lockout, so he didn’t get to work with any of the players. He couldn’t put his program in. He had to take what was there, he had no time for free agency. And he made the best of it and got to the championship game, came that close.”