49ers should go with more short throws with Colin Kaepernick at the helm, not long ones

Chris Graythen

With Colin Kaepernick the all-but confirmed starter going forward, how should the San Francisco 49ers alter the offensive playbook?

Well, the San Francisco 49ers have themselves a regular quarterback controversy, but somewhat overlooked in the discussions about Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith is the play of the wide receivers and tight ends. To put it simply, they're playing great football, and have been all season.

When the phrase "West Coast Offense," is thrown around with regularity, there's a high chance that somebody is improperly using the term. For instance, when Jim Harbaugh came to San Francisco, much fuss was made about him bringing that type of offense "back" to San Francisco, in reference to Bill Walsh's time with Joe Montana and Steve Young.

There were plenty of WCO elements to Harbaugh's attack, but it was very clearly a power running game with a whole bunch of wrinkles, and not really a WCO by any strict definition.

With Kaepernick, a strong-armed quarterback, the 49ers should look into putting more of those plays in the playbook. Historically, the best WCO quarterbacks didn't have cannon arms, but after watching some of Kaepernick's throws on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, it became plenty obvious that San Francisco's receivers can handle a ball coming at them with his velocity over a short distance.

And we're back to the receivers - they've been phenomenal this season when they have the ball in their hands. That's what a WCO is - giving your playmakers the ball and letting them do things. Rather than bomb it 50 yards for a touchdown, get it to your guy six yards out and have him pick up 20.

Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham have been lights out in this area. They're making huge catches, and then they're making people miss. With split-second timing, they're making jukes and picking up the tough yardage, helping their quarterbacks immensely. Smith, in particular, has been very accurate hitting Crabtree on those short passes, notably on third down.

But if Kaepernick can replicate Smith's accuracy, then his increased arm strength could make these plays even more effective. If a receiver relies on split second timing to make a play happen, then Kaepernick delivering that ball harder and faster would mean more opportunities to make things happen. He already showed he can throw as opposed to running the ball, and he looks like a veteran out there. Let's see how the playbook is further tweaked to his skillset going forward.

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