“You know, our job is acquiring talent, not getting rid of talent.”
That’s what Chip Kelly said yesterday when he chatted with beat writers about what the team should do with Colin Kaepernick. Some smart-alecky 49ers fans insisted that Kelly was being clever, because Kaepernick isn’t actually talented and Kelly wouldn’t mind seeing him go. If that was indeed Kelly’s angle, he is a liar. Here’s what preceded that quote, courtesy of the Sacramento Bee.
“Kap’s really good,” he said at one point. “I mean, he had the ball on the 5-yard line (intending on) taking the team in to win a Super Bowl. You can just look at the tape to see how talented he is.”
Kelly’s group interview took place at the combine, exactly one day after Trent Baalke was asked whether he expected Kaepernick to be on the roster in 2016. Baalke said, “Absolutely. Yeah.” Kelly laid it on a lot thicker.
“He wants to be here,” Kelly said. “He’s seemed excited every time I’ve talked to him … I’ve also learned to not believe everything that’s on the Internet.”
If so, Kelly probably doesn’t believe this report, which came out within hours of his Kapbaya my Lord, Kapbayaaaaaa media session.
Source: Kaepernick’s agents have requested permission from the team to seek a trade.
— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) February 25, 2016
The language is key, because Kaepernick hasn’t demanded a trade. He’s still under contract, which means it’s up to the 49ers whether they’ll grant his agents’ request, release him (if he can pass a physical by April 1), or keep him (possibly against his will).
The intelligent move would be to allow his agents to reach out to other teams. Then, pray they get a chance to cut ties with Kaepernick as quickly as possible in order to find a quick resolution to the organization’s latest distraction.
Whatever they decide, hopefully they learned that it’s a waste of everyone’s time to insist that he’s interested in returning. The Kap is out of the bag on that one.
Oh, but EVERYONE in the NFL lies, especially at this time of year.
That’s true to a certain extent, but the 49ers are in the midst of a credibility crisis matched only by Cleveland, their dysfunctional AFC twin. What exactly have the 49ers gained by leaking stories about their belief that Kelly can resurrect Kaepernick, while publicly stating that rumors of an impending divorce are nothing more than Internet hogwash? Well, other than annoying Kaepernick and his agents.
It seems unlikely that the 49ers believe in Kaepernick’s potential, since they made him the midseason scapegoat, they were clearly unimpressed with his study habits and leadership skills, and he doesn’t possess the “repetitive accuracy” prized by Kelly. However, just for fun, let’s say they believe he’s one Kelly offseason away from greatness.
— One would have to be incredibly naïve to believe Kaepernick would be happy remaining with the 49ers, based on (1) Getlin’s tweet, (2) getting benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert, (3) the iPad rumor, and (4) every other way the 49ers have disappointed Kaepernick since he signed an extension that was supposed to allow the team to retain its core players.
Besides, how often do disgruntled quarterbacks rebound from bad seasons in a new system? Has this ever happened?
Despite what they might want you to believe, THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE isn’t the military. Kaepernick isn’t just a number. He’s a celebrity athlete who influences several players on the team with his play and actions, and he’s a constant source of conversation. If he’s upset, hoping he’ll be a good little soldier and ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.
— The surgeries should not be ignored. How can the 49ers be sure that Kaepernick’s accuracy (right thumb surgery) and mobility (left knee surgery) won’t be compromised in 2016?
Let’s say the 49ers have not been truthful about how they perceive Kaepernick, and they actually believe Gabbert (or someone not currently with the organization) would be a better fit.
— Continuing their strategy of boosting Kaepernick’s trade value by reciting compliments and lofty visions of Kaepernick dominating in Kelly’s offense will be seen as a smoke screen, because the perception now is that Kaepernick doesn’t want to be there. (That was already the perception before yesterday, at least among those with ties to Kaepernick’s people, but now the entire nation knows he’d rather play somewhere else.)
— If the players on the team know that the front office is full of it, word will spread and the organization grows weaker as a result (players won’t buy in, they won’t want to stay, free agents will look elsewhere, etc.).
Kaepernick’s representatives have given the 49ers an escape route of sorts. Kaepernick represents the last remaining link to Jim Harbaugh, he was considered a less-than-ideal quarterback (both on the field and in the locker room) last year, and they need this situation to be resolved so they can move on.
The 49ers have two choices.
1. Give Kaepernick’s reps permission to seek a trade, which would allow the 49ers to see who’s interested and what price (if any) they’d be willing to pay.
2. Hold onto Kaepernick and put the onus on Kelly, not only to repair this broken relationship, but get Kaepernick up to speed (literally) with his offense and win games with Kaepernick as a starter. That’s a lot of additional pressure on a new coach who already has a lot to prove after fizzling out in Philly.
Despite what the 49ers may have told Jason Cole about Kaepernick’s $11.9 million base salary being reasonable, why would they want him backing up a quarterback who’s making less than a fifth what he’s due to get? In other words, keeping Kaepernick despite all of these distractions means they’re penciling him in as the 2016 starter, unless they’re cool with expensive Gabbert insurance.
There are two obvious problems that could present themselves if they let the trade-seeking commence.
1. They’re probably afraid that if he goes to another team and thrives, fans will scream and holler about how the 49ers screwed up what could’ve been a good thing. This would, in effect, make Kaepernick another version of Harbaugh.
Rebuttal: Making decisions to prevent former employees from possibly succeeding, or with concern over what the fans might think, isn’t incredibly rational.
2. What if no other team is interested in a thrice-surgeried quarterback with Kaepernick’s salary and baggage? Or the only team with interest is the wrong team, like a division rival? The 49ers surely don’t want to face Kaepernick twice each year for who knows how long. They may already know that one of these scenarios is true, of course, and that could be why they’re doing whatever they can to make his return to the team look like their No. 1 preference.
Rebuttal: If Kaepernick finds out that no one wants him, it will be a humbling moment and he’ll be forced to either retire or stay with the 49ers and compete with Gabbert. And if a team does want him, the 49ers can get a draft pick or two and turn the page, which would probably be best for all involved.