There is no question that quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin are two exceptionally gifted football talents.
Both blasted their ways onto the NFL scene a year ago. And both have struggled this season heading into the 49ers’ game at Washington on Monday night.
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Kaepernick produced a 98.3 passer rating in seven regular-season starts a year ago. In 10 games this season, Kaepernick’s rating is 81.8. The 49ers rank last in the NFL in passing yards, but Washington coach Mike Shanahan still views Kaepernick as an elite talent.
“I think the quarterback position is growth,” Shanahan said Wednesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “And you can see what a great arm he has and what great speed he has. I don’t know him, but he seems like a great guy and a natural leader. It just takes a while. Every year is a learning experience.
“Defenses will always catch up to a guy. But that repetition is going to get him more comfortable with different situations, and you can see what a bright future he does have because his arm strength, his ability to make plays with his legs. I like what I see.”
Griffin led Washington to the playoffs with a 102.4 rating during his rookie season. This season, Washington is struggling at 3-7, and Griffin’s rating is 83.6.
“I think that’s part of the process of being an NFL quarterback, that it’s hard,” Shanahan said. “The amount of hours that you have to spend studying film and going through progressions, looking at defenses, it’s 24 hours a day, not only during season but the offseason for you to take it to that elite level.
“Everybody is going to have a year or two that’s better than the other. For that consistency, you’re going to need a guy that loves football and loves studying because there are so many different parts. It’s one of the reasons why it’s the hardest position in sports to play.”
Both Kaepernick and Griffin received a lot of plaudits – not to mention endorsements and national exposure – for their breakout seasons. So part of the challenge is dealing with success.
"I think sometimes when people have a lot of success, they – some, and I’m not saying this to refer to any of the guys we’re talking about – but guys in general have to keep the same work habit and work ethic that got you there to start with," Shanahan said. "I don’t care if you’re a 10-year player or a second-year player. If you want to stay on top, you better be putting in 100-percent effort. Because if not, you’re chances of staying at the top aren’t very good.”