One of the most engaging members of the 49ers' coaching staff is quarterbacks coach George Patrick "Geep" Chryst.
Coach Jim Harbaugh was mentored by Chryst in 1999, when Harbaugh -- the quarterback of the San Diego Chargers back then -- compiled the second-best passing season of his long career. Harbaugh remembered Chryst, an 18-year coaching veteran of the NFL, and hired him two years ago.
Check out the results: Chryst (his brother is Pittsburgh Panthers coach Paul Chryst) assisted in the rehabilitation of Alex Smith last year, and now he watches over Kaepernick's remarkable ascendancy. To Chryst, the overnight-sensation portion of the Kaepernick story is legitimate if somewhat misleading.
"I remember how hard Kaepernick worked last year. He's just wired in a certain way you just love," said Chryst, a graduate of Princeton. "He's physically imposing now. I can pull out his high school yearbook and show you."
Chryst also pointed out a parallel between Kaepernick and Andrew Luck, the former Stanford star who's already one of the NFL's top quarterbacks. Redshirting Luck during his freshman year, a decision ratified by then Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and assistants Greg Roman (offensive coordinator) and Tim Drevno (offensive line coach), proved successful. One year later, Luck launched his brilliant collegiate career.
Those same three coaches, now with the 49ers, had a hand in letting Kaepernick sit as an NFL rookie while Alex Smith led the 49ers to the NFC championship game. Ultimately, Kaepernick carried the day one season later.
"You can watch him on tape or study him, but his tools still catch opponents off-guard," Chryst said. "When he makes that decision to give or pull (on the read-option), that's difficult to follow. There's a sleight-of-hand that's fun to watch. We're thrilled when we see him going downhill and leveraging the defense."
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and coach Jim Harbaugh are pictured at Thursday's practice (The Associated Press).
Colin Kaepernick walked slowly away from the escalator at a downtown New Orleans hotel Wednesday. His brain no-doubt fried from still another 1-hour thrust-and-parry with the media, he zoned out as he wore a headset over his cap slung low on his forehead. An acquaintance offered a modest wave but Kaepernick was traveling in another land. Soon, the San Francisco 49ers would be practicing for the first time this week in preparation for Sunday's Super Bowl game against the Baltimore Ravens. Kaepernick, the Turlock-raised 49er star quarterback, already was locked and loaded.
It was the easiest prediction: There was no chance Kaepernick would go deer-antler or gay-slam on us this week. Win or lose -- and so far it's mostly win -- the Pitman High graduate is all about the game.
"I'm not here to give advice. That's not my job," Kaepernick said Thursday in reference to a question regarding 49er nickel back Chris Culliver, who stopped the Super Bowl shuffle cold this week with his anti-gay remarks to comedian Artie Lange during Media Day. "I have to play football. that's what we have a PR department for."
Kaepernick may have stumbled upon a stressful fact for the 49ers. Though Culliver did not dodge the media onslaught Thursday and apologized over and over, he has presented the team's front office with a sack-full of trash. The 49ers will feel pressure from gay-rights opponents to suspend Culliver. If he doesn't sit on Sunday, perhaps it will happen next season. Here was a young 49er prospect, potentially a future starter at corner, who delivered a bigoted bombshell that tore into constituencies across the country, two of them located in New Orleans and San Francisco.