As hard as it is to believe, there are things going on with the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterbacks other than Colin Kaepernick not standing during the National Anthem.
There is a quarterback battle going on right now which may be determined tonight, at the end of preseason game number four.
For the 49ers, it’s not an ideal situation.
At this point, both Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert are both back up quarterbacks vying for a starting position.
In theory, Kaepernick and head coach Chip Kelly are a match made in football heaven. In reality, Kaepernick hasn’t showed the skills to compete at a high level in two seasons.
The biggest decision of the off-season for the Niners just so happens to be at the position which means the most in any sport.
Whether you’re Team Kaep or Team Gabbert, it’s safe to say, it will take nothing short of a miracle for either quarterback to take this team to the playoffs.
With the playoffs more than likely not an option, Kelly and the Niners need to weigh the best and worst case scenarios for each quarterback.
Best Case Scenario For Colin Kaepernick:
The best possible thing that could happen with Kaepernick as the starter for the Niners is that the quarterback from 2012-13 shows up.
Kelly would get one of the best athletes in the NFL to run his offense and we could see things done similar to when Kelly was at Oregon with Marcus Mariota under center.
It would give ownership, as well as the fans, a chance to see what Kelly could bring to the Niners offense and it would be a good gauge if that’s the route the organization wants to go in the future.
Kaepernick was, and still is, a polarizing figure in football. He was polarizing in years past because of his unique talents. That’s not so much the case today, but if he can find a way to make people think about his skill first instead of the controversy he’s causing, it’s a win for both himself and the team.
Best Case Scenario For Blaine Gabbert:
Gabbert also has the skills to play in a Kelly system, just not to the extent as Kaepernick.
The ceiling isn’t as high for the 49ers with Gabbert as the quarterback, but he would be serviceable enough to get through this year and address the quarterback issue in the draft of free agency.
Gabbert has a similar skill to Nick Foles who used to play under Kelly in Philadelphia. In 2013, Foles threw for 27 touchdowns and was 8-2 in the 10 games he started.
That Eagles team was far more talented than this Niners team, so the production will not be the same from Gabbert. However, Foles is an example of an average quarterback thriving at an above average level in the Kelly offense.
If Gabbert plays well, San Francisco could re-sign him for next season to compete with a drafted quarterback or one off of free agency for the starting gig.
Worst Case Scenario For Colin Kaepernick:
If Kaepernick is named the starting quarterback for the 2016 season and does not produce at a high level, keeping the quarterback on the roster at all would be a risk in itself.
If, at any point during the upcoming season, Kaepernick gets hurt in a game, his 2017 contract worth $14.5 million would be guaranteed.
Whether they want Kaepernick as the quarterback, or even just on the roster next season, the team would still owe him a ton of money. An injury to the quarterback would handcuff the team for the next few seasons.
The only way that gamble is worth it is if Kaepernick plays at the level we saw a few years back.
Worst Case Scenario For Blaine Gabbert:
There isn’t a whole lot of risk making Gabbert the starter. Maybe he doesn’t have the skills to lead the team to the playoffs, but with the way the roster is constructed, not making the playoffs wouldn’t be a surprise.
Playing Gabbert is a low-risk move for the 49ers.
If he plays well, maybe helps the team win six or seven games, that’s perfect. If he doesn’t play well, then the team can just go to the back up, whether that’s Kaepernick or Ponder.
The 49ers just need to figure out a way to get through this season so they can upgrade the position next season.