Turns out one of the reasons Chip Kelly got hired by the San Francisco 49ers has to do with his desire to work and try and get something out of Colin Kaepernick, unlike another head coach the team was interviewing.
Kelly isn’t promising Kaepernick isn’t going to be a starter, but with the 49ers not wanting to give up on him so soon (although releasing him makes the most sense financially), it’s good that he’s willing to give him a fair shot at making starting quarterback, once he returns from his injury and completes his rehab. Kaepernick’s salary becomes guaranteed if he’s still on the roster on April 1 of the respective league year. In 2016 his cap hit is $15.9 million. The 49ers can shed $8.4 million off the cap by releasing him.
So who is the guy who didn’t think Kaepernick can work out? Mike Shanahan, who was last seen failing to coach the Washington Redskins. Shanahan was only 24-40 in his four years as the Redskins head coach. His one good season? In 2012, with Robert Griffin III as a rookie, and the Redskins going 10-6. A lot has been thrown in the air about what happened to Griffin at the end of that season, and specifically playing injured in the playoff game against the Seahawks that might have been the turning point of his career.
Was it Shanahan and his son Kyle, who was the offensive coordinator at the time, that took Griffin’s career backwards? Is it Griffin’s fault himself? How much does Dan Snyder fall into this? It doesn’t matter. While Shanahan has done good work with mobile quarterbacks in the past, he didn’t seem to think there’s something to be done with Kaepernick, who lost his starting spot to Blaine Gabbert after nine games in which he threw only six touchdowns this season.
The thing with Kaepernick is that it seems, despite the promise of a new throwing motion before the beginning of the 2015 season, that he’s going backwards as a passer and playmaker. With teams less and less willing to let quarterbacks run wild and make themselves targets for tackling and injuries, his greatest strength is taken away from him. Kaepernick completed just 59% of his passes last season and had a career low passer rating of 78.5, although playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL didn’t help.
It’ll be interesting to see how Kelly approaches this. Is Kaepernick salvageable? Maybe not. And it’s not unlike Kelly to try and push for drafting a quarterback or trying to trade for one, although it’s safe to assume the 49ers won’t give him the kind of power and control he had last offseason in Philadelphia. Kelly no longer has the genius label to help him out, and after last season, even if he did do a good job with Sam Bradford in the second half of 2015, it’s going to be a lot more difficult for Kelly in terms of asking of patience and defending a losing record. But when you look back – his only losing season in the NFL ended with him getting fired, so there wasn’t much patience in Philadelphia either.