When it comes to failing quarterbacks, most of the attention this season has been on Robert Griffin III, with a little more doled out on the Geno Smiths of the world.

But in the Bay Area, another young QB has been busy regressing in a big way. Colin Kaepernick's future in San Francisco seems as tenuous as ever, especially since his coach and chief cheerleader Jim Harbaugh might not be with the team for much longer.

Consider also that the contract Kaepernick signed not long ago isn't nearly as much of a hurdle as you would think, since his $61 million guarantee is only guaranteed against injury. The base salary is still significant, but releasing him wouldn't be that financially painful.

But would it be a wise move? Kaepernick has certainly taken some steps backward, but the big question would be whether it's the beginning of a continual downward trend or just a blip on an otherwise solid career.

Let's start from a pure statistical standpoint.


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His completion percentage is actually a little higher this season than in 2013, and he's thrown just seven fewer attempts than all of last year, with three games still to go. But in five of his last six games, Kaepernick has completed 55 percent or fewer passes, and in the Week 10 game against the New Orleans Saints, Kaepernick completed just 43.75 percent of his passes.

The biggest concern, though, may be his struggles with turnovers. Kaepernick has thrown five interceptions in the last three games compared to just four touchdowns. Last week, he struggled against the Oakland Raiders (!), throwing two picks.

While the loss was a team effort, the underwhelming play and inability to protect the ball has been an issue for Kaepernick this season.

Pro Football Focus has Kaepernick ranked as the No. 31 quarterback in the NFL out of 40 rated. He's behind the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Mark Sanchez and Zach Mettenberger, as well as both Mike Glennon and Josh McCown.

Of course, most of the players named haven't matched his snap count, and he's not the only low rated "top" quarterback (Matt Stafford is No. 21 and Jay Cutler is No. 32). For comparison's sake, PFF had Kaepernick end the season at No. 18 in 2013 and No. 15 in '12. Still, for him to drop that far is a bit of a shock.

What's a bigger surprise is his drop in grade when running.

Last season, Kaepernick graded at a 4.3, which put him at No. 8. His mobility had always been a strength, as it opened up some space for his receivers and, coupled with handing the ball to Frank Gore, kept the defense honest.

This year, there has been an appreciable decline in called run and read-option plays from the coaching staff in San Francisco. Last year they throttled back because Kaepernick was hurt, but there is no such proof of that yet (we may hear of something after the season).

So while Kaepernick was able to use his speed, size and athleticism as a weapon, this year most of his runs are scrambles and therefore not prone to pick up as many yards or be as effective.

We're left wondering two things, then.

First, does Kaepernick have what it takes to be a pocket passer? As it stands this season, he hasn't shown the ability to do so, but we know that the transition can take years. Even as far back as the Senior Bowl, I saw his coaches repeatedly have him bootleg and run in practice, much to the consternation of media who had seen him do enough of that on film in Nevada's pistol offense.

There has been a hesitation to make Kaepernick throw the ball from the pocket, and there are reasons why.

The second question, as we posed before: Will San Francisco be willing to wait and work with Kaepernick if the quarterback's biggest booster, Harbaugh, is gone?

You have to wonder if a team as loaded with talent as the Niners are would be willing to wait as their quarterback learns how to play a traditional quarterback style. The smart play would be to bring in a coach who wishes to use Kaepernick's mobility the way the team did in his first two seasons.

Of course, there's one more possibility.

Maybe Kaepernick just isn't all that good. Maybe he's peaked already, and now that he has been in the NFL a few years, teams have figured out how to counter him. (Well, teams who aren't the Green Bay Packers, as that seems to be the one franchise he kills on a regular basis.)

It's entirely possible that what we are seeing are all the concerns people had about Kaepernick coming out of college, realized. Athleticism and arm strength can only take you so far when you cannot handle the basic requirements of a being a QB -- delivering the ball under pressure in the pocket.

Much has been made over the past few years about the advent of the mobile quarterback. Yet here we are, with Kaepernick struggling, RGIII injured and possibly out of a job in Washington and Russell Wilson mostly handing the ball off in one of the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL. We know Wilson can throw, but Kaepernick has not been the type of quarterback who can stand in the pocket and deliver the ball with precision.

The 49ers might think they can't wait for Kaepernick to turn things around, and with his team-friendly contract, they'll move on.