SANTA CLARA -- And so now we await the encore, wherein Colin Kaepernick presses a button and returns the 49ers to Super Bowl glory, takes his place alongside Joe and Steve and maybe even meets the breathless hype peddled by Ron Jaworski.
Kaepernick is primed to revolutionize quarterback play in the NFL.
That's the pretext for 2013, and it's a diabolical trap.
Kaepernick is gifted. He can, probably will be, outstanding for many years. But isn't it irresponsibly premature to bestow greatness upon a quarterback with 10 NFL starts?
As Kaepernick himself points out, he has not played a full season. He's flattered by the attention and praise, but he's working to improve. Believe him. His teammates stand as witnesses.
There may be no tougher trick for the athlete or entertainer than to go from instant sensation to certified legend. Act II is a beast, and it does not forgive, and it often uses reality like a fierce backhand to the face.
Though Kaepernick, 25, seems to recognize he's relatively unaccomplished, too many others seem to ignore it.
We all watched Kaepernick's career blast off last season. After replacing Alex Smith at quarterback, Kaep seized the role, lit up the postseason and came within a few curious play-calls of orchestrating a game-winning drive in the Super Bowl. He was stunningly good by any measure, certainly for someone who had been a backup his first 11/2 years in the league.
That was enough to land Kaepernick on the covers of GQ magazine and, unclothed, ESPN The Magazine. He recently graced the cover of Sports Illustrated for the second time this year. He attended the ESPYs, where cameras stalked his every move. Have you seen his commercial for the Madden video game?
And then there is Jaworski, the former NFL quarterback turned ESPN analyst, who studied Kaepernick and immediately sprinted over to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where he stands holding the door for Kaepernick's arrival.
"I truly believe Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever,'' Jaworski recently said. "I love his skill set. I think the sky's the limit.''
This is after, ahem, 10 starts. As an introduction to an NFL career, 10 starts is barely a handshake. How can we already know what Kaepernick is, much less what he will be this season or for the rest of his career? Why with so little substance behind him is there this rush to preach his legend?
Yes, he runs like few others have. Yes, he passes like few others have. Yes, his is the practically perfect combination of athleticism and skill. Still, let him do it.
To gain perspective, let's examine history. Michael Vick was going to revolutionize quarterback play in the NFL. He had the arm and the legs. At age 22, in his second season, he went to Green Bay in January 2003 and iced the Packers at frigid Lambeau Field. That was Vick's postseason debut.
Vick's postseason record since beating the Packers is 1-4.
Vick has had a good, though interrupted, NFL career. Given his gifts, it's reasonable to conclude it has been, to this point, somewhat disappointing.
That's not to suggest that Kaepernick will follow this path but to warn of the dangers of connecting five or six dots to create a legend. Remember when Kordell Stewart was hailed as the new breed of quarterback? Do we really expect Jeremy Lin to rediscover the magic he displayed during one three-week stretch of his New York Knicks career?
Kaepernick could have a perfectly good season. He could throw for 3,800 yards, with 35 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. He could rush for another 600 yards. The 49ers could go 11-5 and make it back to the Super Bowl.
Would anything less than victory mean Kaepernick has failed? It should not.
Should it play out like this, don't assume it's because he fell in love with himself. There may not be a more committed 49er.
"He hears all the (praise) but he doesn't let it get to him,'' Frank Gore said. "He practices hard, hits the weights hard and listens to the coaches. Kaep is a different cat.''
That he is, by all accounts.
But please resist the notion to crown him or knight him and have his baby. We've experienced only his handshake. Let him move about the room. See how he circulates. Give him space to grow. Allow him to mature. See if his body and mind hold up.
Legends don't merely show up. They also perform admirably and continue to perform admirably. The greats endure, and 10 starts is an insult to the concept of endurance.