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Joe Montana calls Colin Kaepernick ‘distraction,’ likens QB skills to those of Tim Tebow

Colin Kaepernick completed 59.2 percent of his passes for 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2016. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Some NFL observers assume that Colin Kaepernick’s inability to latch on with a team is solely based on his protests during the national anthem last season, but Joe Montana begs to differ. The three-time Super Bowl MVP says that Kaepernick’s passing skills are as much a problem as the “distractions” he caused in the locker room.

In fact, Montana likened Kaepernick’s ability to throw the football to that of Tim Tebow, whose notoriously slow and inaccurate arm was the main reason his NFL career was so brief. The greatest quarterback in the history of the 49ers, if not the entire league, Montana made it clear that he would be just as happy to never see Kaepernick in a San Francisco uniform again.

“Everyone thinks it is the stance he took; one of the things you don’t look for is distractions in the locker room,” Montana recently said to the Sporting News. “You can go back to Bill Walsh and as soon as there were guys that weren’t fitting in what he was looking for, it didn’t matter how good you were. You weren’t on the team for very long.

“You have to have people who want the same thing, fighting for the same thing and willing to put in the time.”

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The “willing to put in the time” remark echoes skepticism from other 49ers-related figures about Kaepernick’s dedication to the sport. In May, MMQB’s Peter King wrote, “I spent a long draft weekend with the Niners in California, and there are those in the building who think Kaepernick might actually rather do social justice work full-time than play quarterback.”

San Francisco General Manager John Lynch spelled it out in June, when he said of Kaepernick’s priorities, “I think there is a perception that football is not at the top of the list.”

When asked if he thought Kaepernick would be on an NFL roster by the beginning of the season, Montana said, “I’m not sure, I think [if] there’s an injury somewhere he probably gets in.” He added, “In most cases, you look at Tim Tebow — a great guy and everybody was talking about him.

“But what it comes down to is 40 percent completion or even in the low 50s, you can’t win in the league with that. You won’t be in the league very long. It comes down to his play as much as anything.”

As Tebow did, Kaepernick gains much of his effectiveness from his ability to run, while displaying an unorthodox throwing motion and subpar accuracy for the NFL. However, in a league where the average completion percentage has been a record-high 63.0 for the past two seasons, Kaepernick has not been terribly far off, with a career percentage of 59.8, whereas, in three seasons with the Broncos and Jets, Tebow completed a gruesome 47.9 percent of his passes.

In addition, if Kaepernick caused major distractions in the 49ers’ locker room last year as the team was plummeting to a 2-14 debacle, you wouldn’t know it from a prestigious end-of-season honor he was given. Teammates voted to give him the Len Eshmont Award, which is bestowed on “the 49er who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play” of the former San Francisco running back.

“Kap was awesome,” former 49ers coach Chip Kelly, who was fired at the end of last season, said in June (via “You know, at the beginning of the year, he made a stance in terms of what he believed was right. We recognized and supported his ability to do that. But he never brought that into the locker room.”

“He explained to all the players his thought process and mind-set of what he was doing,” Kelly said of Kaepernick. “And there were some players that agreed with him and some players that didn’t agree with him. But after that point, we heard from the outside about what a distraction it is, except those people weren’t in our locker room and it never was a distraction. He never turned it into a circus or whatever people think.”

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To Montana, though, Kaepernick, who opted out of his 49ers contract just before free agency began in March, had much to do with the team’s dismal season. His departure, Montana claimed, allows San Francisco a chance at a fresh start, as the team has brought in Brian Hoyer to be its starting quarterback, with Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard further down the depth chart.

“I think changes were necessary there. … I think there was a lot of loss for the game over the past few years with all the distractions, with Colin and all those things,” Montana told the Sporting News.

“They needed to clean house, [get] a different atmosphere in that building.”