Super Bowl XLVII quarterbacks end frustrating season on injured reserve

Joe Flacco had just helped the Ravens to a win before he and the rest of the world found out torn knee ligaments would end his season. It could have been a great moment in sports -- the franchise quarterback toughing out an injury to set up his team for victory.

Flacco still gets credit for toughness, but luster is lost when you remember it was the Ravens' third win of the season (making them 3-7 in 2015) and that the quarterback tossed two very ugly interceptions against the St. Louis Rams.


On the opposite coast, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had already, weeks ago, been benched for his poor play (though his team did beat the Ravens on Oct. 18) and was placed on injured reserve this past Saturday with a left (nonthrowing) shoulder injury.

Just like that, the two quarterbacks who ascended to national stardom during Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans (co-starring in a McDonald's television commercial makes them stars, right?) ended profoundly disappointing seasons with serious injuries and numerous questions about the future.

The 49ers general manager said Sunday Kaepernick might be with the team in 2016, but that such a thing is in question is a pretty good indication of how far the quarterback has fallen since leading San Francisco to consecutive NFC championship games.

He reportedly signed a six-year, $114 million contract before the 2014 season, a deal on par with the six-year, $120.6 million contract Flacco signed after being named Super Bowl MVP in 2013.

Kaepernick was OK last year, passing for 3,369 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 639 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers went 8-8.

He was less OK this year, throwing for 1,615 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions in eight games before being benched. San Francisco is 3-7, fourth in the NFC West.

While he entered the Superdome in February 2013 a dynamic athlete who was supposed to usher in a new age of dual-threat quarterbacks, Kaepernick found in recent seasons what so many others with similar skillsets have realized: To consistently be among the NFL's best, a quarterback must run an efficient downfield passing attack.

Flacco has done that in Baltimore, though he's certainly had his problems in the past couple of seasons. In the 2013 regular season, he tossed a career high 22 interceptions. While he had perhaps his best season in the league in 2014, this year more closely resembled that 8-8 disappointment that followed the Super Bowl victory.

The Ravens quarterback finishes this year with 2,791 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was on pace to surpass 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career (a mind-boggling truth considering his reputation as a downfield passer) and kept the Ravens in every game during this frustrating season.

But his interceptions often came at inopportune times, and several seemed to be the result of extremely poor decisions.

So, without the final six games of this season to help make up for the mistakes of the first 10, Flacco is left with his excellent 2014 sandwiched between a poor 2013 and so-so 2015.

Flacco's future with the Ravens isn't necessarily in jeopardy -- not like Kaepernick's is with the 49ers. His contract was always going to be restructured during this offseason because it would otherwise take up too much space under the salary cap in 2016.

It doesn't seem likely his torn ACL and MCL will hurt him in negotiations, and it's not like the Ravens have a plethora of more attractive options.

But if this season had been better -- if the Ravens weren't in a battle for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft -- would such questions even arise?


When the Ravens played the 49ers in October, 22 players remained from the combined 106 who were available for Super Bowl XLVII. So much has changed for these two teams, not so long ago atop the NFL.

Now their quarterbacks are out, too, and their stars -- especially Kaepernick's -- don't shine as brightly as they once did.

That night, less than three years ago in New Orleans, seems like an awful long time ago.