Philadelphia Eagles v San Francisco 49ers

Willis takes his former teammate due to that amazing 2012 season.

Brock Purdy etched his name into the 49ers history books with his superb 2023 season, notching the most passing yards in franchise history among other accolades. There’s been a lot of comparisons between he and his predecessor, Jimmy Garoppolo, but now there’s a new one: Brock Purdy vs. Colin Kaepernick.

And former 49ers linebacker (and soon to be Pro Football Hall of Famer) Patrick Willis choose Kaepernick over Purdy.

While on Robert Griffin III’s RGIII and the Ones podcast, Willis was presented with the question: 2012 Kaepernick or 2023 Purdy. Willis has praised Purdy an awful lot in the past, but decided to go with the quarterback he played opposite of in his final seasons with the 49ers. I’ve transcribed the cut-up of the interview below:

“I’m going to have to take Kap. A lot of people can go back and nitpick what it looked like towards his last couple years or whatnot with the Niners or his last year with the Niners. He did what he needed to do. It may not have been in a way that a traditional quarterback throwing way, but man, him, you [RGIII] guys were something electrifying. But man, Purdy, that’s a tough one man. I love them 1A and 1B.”

Keep in mind, this is 2012 Colin Kaepernick, as RGIII pointed out. This is not what Colin Kaepernick became in his final years. Plus, Willis has been very vocal about Purdy and probably has him just behind Kaepernick (The 1a and 1b)

Regardless, I can see why Willis would go with Kaepernick. Beyond the two being teammates, Kaepernick in 2012 was a beast and there was even a sideline video of how surprised Willis was with Kaepernick’s running speed during the NFC Divisional win over the Green Bay Packers (I tried to find video of it, but was unable to). When he took the field against the Chicago Bears, everyone thought the 49ers had something special. Once he started running the pistol and gashing defenses with his legs, everyone wondered what the ceiling was.

Turns out, we were pretty much witnessing the ceiling. All those reckless throws in 2012 that were attributed to being a “One-read guy early in his career” and “inexperience” were never rectified and Kaepernick regressed as the years went on (bad coaching certainly didn’t help).

Purdy made the same mistakes that Kaepernick did, but a lot of them only happened once. Very rarely have we seen Brock Purdy make the same mistake twice. On the same token, some of those great runs by Purdy in the playoffs would have been easy touchdowns for Kaepernick.

Kaepernick was so elusive with his legs defenses had to put a spy on him. Whenever they went with man coverage, Kaepernick would take one look and dart across the field. It worked even when it shouldn’t. Despite the success, for whatever the reason, second and third reads just never came like with Purdy.

Then there’s that cannon of an arm Kaepernick had that beat Purdy’s underrated arm-strength.

If the 49ers could implement some one-read and go plays to force defenses to put a spy on Purdy like Kaepernick, I wonder how much that may open up the backfield. Then again, having Purdy run more opens him up for injury and he always does a run when you least expect it.

Who would you take? 2023 Purdy or 2012 Kaepernick?

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