Putting a cap on 49ers' mad hatter chatter

July, 9, 2013
7/09/13
5:00
PM ET

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick revels in breaking from convention.

"Whether it's having tattoos, whether it's playing a different style of offense, I want people to look at me and say, 'He's successful and he's doing it a different way,'" Kaepernick told ESPN The Magazine after posing nude for its pages.

We probably can add to the list Kaepernick's defiant reaction when criticized for wearing a Miami Dolphins hat to a party recently. This one hit the NFC West radar screen while I was away on vacation, and frankly it's the sort of story that doesn't interest me a great deal.

There are a couple of meaningful takeaways. Kaepernick, 25 years old and with only 10 regular-season and postseason starts, can become savvier in his interactions with fans via Twitter. He stirred passions unnecessarily by strongly resisting criticisms. Also, starting NFL quarterbacks do have a responsibility to their organizations. How they conduct themselves on matters that seem trivial to them can affect others in ways they might not consider in the heat of the moment.

NFL quarterbacks are going to create a stir when they break from convention. Perhaps Kaepernick can change that. For now, the scrutiny applies to him the same way it would to others in his position. It's a potential nuisance.

Ron Jaworski and Herm Edwards made reasonable points, I thought, in explaining why something as seemingly ridiculous as hat choice can matter. The video above carries their thoughts, including this one from Jaworski, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles:

"I don't think it's a big deal, but it does show some immaturity on Colin Kaepernick's part. You are paid by the San Francisco 49ers. You are the face of their organization. You just came off a very difficult Super Bowl loss and actually had a chance to win that game late in the game if he made a play. I think it would be wise to wear the hat of the team that pays you and the city that really beholds you and loves you as their quarterback."


Some fans grimace when they see their favorite teams' players smiling while interacting with opponents following a difficult defeat. Fans loyal through thick and thin might have a tough time relating to players whose loyalty must be conditional.

This hat situation with Kaepernick isn't a significant issue, in my view, but the broader pattern is helpful as we get a better feel for Kaepernick, who remains a bit of an enigmatic figure at this early point in his career. He wants to be different and is succeeding. I'm guessing this will be the last time we see him sporting gear from another team, however. On the bright side, at least he wasn't wearing a Seattle Seahawks cap.

Kaepernick's flair for the unconventional stands opposite the philosophy coach Jim Harbaugh has promoted while wearing the same black-and-tan attire on game days and emphasizing the team over the individual at every turn, including when he was a player (thanks for the tip, @akrish).

Of course, Harbaugh was instrumental in drafting Kaepernick and installing Kaepernick as the starter when the more conventional Alex Smith was available to him. He obviously values the unconventional skills Kaepernick brings to the offense. So, while Kaepernick and his coach might be different in some ways, both appear to improve the 49ers' chances for winning. They appear to fit well from a football standpoint. That is what matters most.

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