The agent for San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick came out and requested a trade this week. This can’t be considered shocking—the 49ers are a bungling operation and woefully mishandled Kaepernick along with everything else the last two years. But the timing is a little odd given the hiring of Chip Kelly as head coach—presumably because of his ability to coach an athletic QB like Kaepernick.
The San Francisco quarterback has been in decline for two years. He was electric in leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and was one uncalled pass interference from pulling off the greatest comeback in SB history.
There were struggles in 2013 as head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Romans worked to transition him more to dropback passing. But he still played pretty well and was good in two road playoff wins at Green Bay and Carolina.
It all began to come apart in 2014 as Kaepernick’s play went down along with the fortunes of the franchise. There was serious dysfunction as the power struggle between Harbaugh and the front office was inexplicably decided in favor of general manager Jed York. One of the most successful coaches in the league—and a quarterback guru—was forced out. Even more inexplicably was the decision to hire defensive line coach Jim Tomsula as the new boss.
The disaster of 2015 for both the quarterback and the team was easily foreseen. Kaepernick played poorly, got hurt, got benched and Tomsula eventually got fired. But the organization still clearly believed—at least a little bit–in their quarterback, because it was reported that Kelly got the job over Mike Shanahan because the latter wanted to move on from Kaepernick while Kelly wanted to work with him.
Admittedly, neither coach is ideal to work under. Both have a demonstrated history of being far more concerned about making their own power, rather than winning football games, the centerpiece goal of the organization. From that standpoint, I can see why Kaepernick still wants out. But now is not the right time.
Kaepernick’s value just isn’t very high on the market right now. This is unfortunate—his career numbers in completion percentage, yards-per-attempt and interception percentage are all superior to Andrew Luck, whom is still seen as a prize in spite of his own 2015 marked by poor play and injuries (if you want to see racial motives behind this, I won’t argue). I would have no problem trading for Kaepernick and building an offense around him. But I suspect that my viewpoint is a distinct minority among NFL general managers and head coaches.
The best solution for Kaepernick is to make it work in San Francisco. While it’s a stretch to say that Kelly is humbled by his failure at total control of operations in Philadelphia, it is fair to say the new head coach’s leverage is low right now. And we know that when Kelly just coaches football, he’s pretty good—20-12 his first two years when he didn’t run personnel. We know his system will work for Kaepernick. All things considered, the best option for the 49ers quarterback is to stick it out where he’s at.