NEW ORLEANS — Take a good look at Joe Flacco today.
He might just be part of a dying breed of NFL quarterbacks.
For, on the other sideline will be Colin Kaepernick, the best of the new breed of athlete running the show.
No less than Super Bowl XLVII is on the line.
And, too, maybe NFL offensive philosophies.
“It’s possible that it is here to stay; don’t make any predictions on that,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I think that it’s been successful for us because of the players that we have executing it. I think they’re extremely good at it.”
With Kaepernick, the San Francisco offense has molded from traditional drop-back passing to a hybrid of a passing offense and one that employs the read-option.
The second-year quarterback was successful using it – it’s called the Pistol Formation – at Nevada. New he’s showing, along with Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, that you can’t just ignore the signal caller.
It’s unlike the fads of the past, the Run-and-Shoot or the Wildcat.
“I think this one is here to stay because it stresses the defense more than those other ones,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Those other ones were heavy pass. One was heavy run. This stresses you on both sides.”
Not everyone is sold.
Playing directly against Kaepernick is Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard, a hard-hitting, athletic safety.
“You invest all of this money in a quarterback and you put him out there on an island where when they start running, they’re no longer protected,” Pollard said. “In the day and age that we’re playing in, they’re protected if they’re going to throw. But if they are going to do all of this handing off and wanting to run, then they’re not protected.”
Pollard’s teammate Haloti Ngata isn’t sure the read-option can’t be figured out.
The beefy nose tackle in Baltimore’s 3-4 defense recognizes the difficulty in stopping it. But he doesn’t think it’s impossible.
“When we played Washington with RG III, they hit us in the beginning of the game with a bunch of read option and pistol formation plays,” Ngata said. “We had to adjust, and once we did, we did better. Hopefully, it doesn’t take us too long to adjust (on Sunday), and hopefully the things that we’ve been practicing will work. We can’t hesitate, and they’ve been successful getting a lot of teams to hesitate and guess.”
Still, the 49ers have shown that Kaepernick and the offense can be successful. What he does, both with his feet and his arm, makes it hard on defenses.
More than anything, though, it’s less about the offense and more about the players running it and it starts with the quarterback.
“You have to have a smart quarterback and (Kaepernick) is one of the smartest out there,” 49ers running back LaMichael James said. “He makes all the right reads, all the right checks at the line. He does a great job with everything. Anytime you have a quarterback like that who can run, throw the ball and is super smart--he is a bonus back there.”
So get a good look at Flacco because in the future, he may be the rarity. Not Kaepernick.
Today’s game could go a long way in facilitating that change.