SANTA CLARA -- Colin Kaepernick is the quarterback to lead the 49ers on the Quest For Six.
Yes, he is that dude.
His performance in the NFC Championship game, despite its obvious warts, demonstrated once more why that is the truth.
Some of the throws Kaepernick made Sunday, especially the touchdown to Anquan Boldin, displayed his rare ability to make plays. His effectiveness scrambling had the best defense in the NFL discombobulated.
Yes, his inaccuracy -- and perhaps his stubbornness -- led to another season-ending pass attempt to Michael Crabtree. A slightly better throw, three inches higher or six inches wider, and everything is different. The 49ers are going to the Super Bowl, Kaepernick is being celebrated, and there is no question that Kaepernick is the man now and beyond.
The truth: He is that dude anyway.
Kaepernick is the very reason the 49ers are where they are. He's the player who makes them dynamic and dangerous. He's the one player on the team who can win a game the 49ers might otherwise have no chance of winning. He is the reason they still were in the game until the final seconds. He is the reason, even if they had fallen behind by two scores, they still would have had a chance.
Save for two passes, one against the Baltimore Ravens last February, he would be wearing a Super Bowl ring and about to play for a second. Nobody has more to do with this team's level of success. Nobody more embodies the heights to which this team can reach.
That was evident against the Seahawks. The sky above CenturyLink Field was collapsing. The game plan was falling apart. You could argue the officials weren't giving the 49ers a fair shake. Yet, the 49ers were right there, because of Kaepernick.
San Francisco's ground game had been silenced by Seattle; Frank Gore couldn't go anywhere. The defense was being outplayed by Russell Wilson's crew. Throw in the intimidating environment and the high stakes of the game, and you had the ingredients for a blowout.
But the 49ers had Kaepernick. His will nearly won them the game. In what could be deemed a poor overall performance, he remained the chief reason the 49ers nearly pulled it off. He's not the stereotypical quarterback many would prefer. But he is so impactful, he can change a game even on a bad day.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a greater natural talent at quarterback. And it's punctuated by his sheer will. He's got that young Brett Favre swag.
Yes, Kaepernick is that good. So good, he gives the 49ers a chance to win every game they play. If he ever gets the polish to his game -- getting his feet set on deep throws, developing his patience and awareness in the pocket, consistently applying the right touch to throws -- he'll be so good as not to cost the 49ers games, either. When that happens, look out.
It is inconceivable to think Kaepernick won't get better. His teammates say he trains like a linebacker, so there's no worry about his putting in the effort. And if experience is the best teacher, Kaepernick's learning is ahead of the curve.
He has started 29 games in three years. Six of them were under the weight of postseason play, and only once did he have home-field advantage. Still, he's two passes away from being 6-0.
You can take away two wins -- the Ravens and the Seahawks did -- but you can't take away the big-game experience he has gained at such an early stage.
The real question about Kaepernick isn't whether he's the man, now and beyond, but how much better he can get.
Can he learn pocket presence? Consistent accuracy? Can a better game plan capitalize on his strengths (instead of abandoning the designed quarterback runs in the second half, as the 49ers did) and minimize his weaknesses? Can a better running game alleviate the need for Kaepernick to be perfect?