The San Francisco 49ers drafted Jeff Driskel and tried to trade Colin Kaepernick. However, when training camp begins, it’ll be Kaepernick facing off against Blaine Gabbert for the starting quarterback position, no one else.
And Driskel, who played for Florida and Louisiana Tech during his college career? The 207th overall pick will be facing Thad Lewis as they compete for the number three quarterback roster spot. The one who wins gets to be on an NFL team in 2016. The one who loses goes on the nomad way, hoping someone signs him by the time the season begins, or making himself available for when injuries start bothering teams. Driskel, either way, is a developmental project at the moment, nothing more.
It’s been a rough stretch for Kaepernick, who lost his starting spot last season while also aggravating a left shoulder injury that pushed him away from the team. It’s been six months, and he should be ready to go for training camp under a new head coach (third in three years, Chip Kelly), although the matter of his motivation to do it might be a bit different. Kaepernick has been looking for another team to take him with the Denver Broncos coming very close. The 49ers have been actively trying to shop him. It’s just business, obviously, but players aren’t machines, and often these things linger well past expiration date.
Gabbert? He thought he did enough in the second half of last season to win a starting job. Maybe on a team with very little ambition. But while the front office of the 49ers remains the same, there’s a clearer vision and way moving forward: Draft, draft and working with what they have. Gabbert thought Kaepernick would be gone by now, but turns out the 49ers denied themselves the possibility of making things clearer at quarterback: They surprisingly didn’t release him while it wouldn’t have been financially damaging, and then shopped him when it was clear his contract will get in the way.
It’s clear where Gabbert is coming from: This is probably the only team in the NFL willing to consider him as a starter, and he’ll claw his way through training camp to make sure he keeps his job. But Kaepernick, if he’s healthy, should be the favorite to end up as the starting quarterback. Another season for him watching from the sidelines, this time without even an injury holding him back, will be as close as it gets to being a career poison pill.