Now that the San Francisco 49ers have decided on the head coach with the hiring of former Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, the next question to be answered is who will he choose as his quarterback?
Colin Kaepernick was considered to be on his way out of the Bay Area via release or trade this spring, but now that the innovative, offensive-minded Kelly is a 49er, perhaps Kaepernick’s once great young career can be reignited in San Francisco. After all, Kelly did make Nick Foles an All-Pro quarterback in just a couple seasons.
There’s no doubt Kaepernick was putrid this season. In eight games to start the 2015 season, Kaepernick averaged just 179.4 passing yards per game and totaled just six touchdowns and 6 interceptions (four in one game against Arizona). He also rushed a career-low 28.4 yards per game with just one rushing touchdown all year.
Jim Tomsula did nothing to help Colin Kaepernick. In Jim Harbaugh’s offense, the playbook was considered dense and complex – perhaps too much for Kaepernick. Tomsula dumbed it down to help Kaepernick run a simpler offense, but it was never effective against even average NFL defenses. Now that Kaepernick has been in the injury reserve since week nine, he will have to prove himself worthy of another shot.
In his absence, backup Blaine Gabbert took the wheel and managed a 3-5 record as the starter. While Gabbert was better in the pocket, managing the game or checking the ball down the field, he isn’t nearly as athletic as Kaepernick. That’s not to say Kaepernick will be the clear-cut starter – if both are still with the 49ers in training camp, there will a good competition between them to determine Kelly’s favorite.
Kelly, without a doubt, is an upgrade over Tomsula when it comes to offense. In Harbaugh’s final year, the 49ers offense ranked 20th in yards and 25th in scoring. Although they didn’t pass much, the rushing was one of the best in the league. Last year under Tomsula, the 49ers offense ranked 31st in total yards and 32nd – dead last – in scoring. Kelly on the other hand, has had his offense rank in the top 5 in yards and scoring twice in the last three years, ending with the 12th and 13th best yards and scoring in 2015.
The 49ers are finding a new identity and it may be an easier solution to start from scratch by cutting Kaepernick and drafting a quarterback in this year’s draft, but with Kelly wanting to implement his high-flying offense, he may want to add one of the more athletic, mobile quarterbacks in the league.
For the last few years, Kaepernick has been forcing himself to play as a “traditional” quarterback despite being raised a mobile, run-and-gun-type of quarterback under center. Kelly could be the guy to finally harness all of Kaepernick’s potential talent and Kaepernick would be a fool to leave his current situation.
There are still questions concerning the 49ers offense that will only be answered in due time, but with Kelly strictly a head coach for the 49ers and Kaepernick given a new opportunity with the offense, the 49ers can finally build a new identity.