49ers will start Kaepernick in Buffalo – the shift from Baalke’s team to Kelly’s team is complete

Jed York Chip Kelly Trent Baalke

I wrote yesterday that the time to fire Trent Baalke is now. Like, today. That didn’t happen this morning, but Chip Kelly held an impromptu press conference to announce Colin Kaepernick will start Sunday against the Bills.

He also said this*:

After a moment or two to reflect, not so subtle! In fact, that was Kelly launching a hook shot from the media tent toward Baalke’s office. No surprise, Kelly is left to scramble at 1-4 and might have the worst offensive skill position talent in the league — no way he’s going to go down with this ship when he senses a time when Jed York’s First Mate is so vulnerable.

So today is the day when Baalke’s countdown clock officially starts. Kelly said today’s move from Blaine Gabbert to Kaepernick had nothing to do with contract status, and maybe that’s true in his mind, although a decision like this surely goes through ownership. Even Jim Harbaugh ran it by York in 2012 before he made a permanent switch from Alex Smith to Kaepernick after the latter’s famous win on Monday night over the Bears.

York gave Kelly the go-ahead. Now Baalke — by all accounts a Gabbert guy through and through, although that may have more to do with his feelings about Kaepernick than his feelings about Gabbert — is left to watch his broken team play with a quarterback he looked to trade during the offseason.

Whether this means Tom Gamble steps in during the bye week or a change takes place after the season, Baalke is no longer in charge. It was an inevitable move based on roster regression and an overall lack of interest and passion from the fan base, but it was noteworthy just the same to hear Kelly blame the team’s depth. Geep Chryst did the same near the end of last season when he said “as a coach, you know the hand that you’re dealt.” But Chryst knew his time was running out. Kelly is safe for the time being, and he flexed a little muscle today for the first time. Based on Kelly’s personnel record in Philadelphia, York would be well-advised to let Kelly flex his power as a coach ONLY, and leave the general manager stuff to someone else once he and Baalke “mutually part ways.”

* The official quote, based on the transcript: “It’s really one of the only maneuvers we can make based on our depth.”

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