San Francisco 49ers Rumors: Colin Kaepernick Could Still End Up As Team’s 2016 Starter

The San Francisco 49ers were rumored to be done with Colin Kaepernick, who tumbled from franchise quarterback to bench warmer behind journeyman Blaine Gabbert, but new reports out of San Francisco indicate that there could still be life left for Kaepernick.

After leading the team to the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl in his first two seasons as a full-time starter, Kaepernick had an abrupt fall from grace. His inconsistency and struggles with accuracy led the team to yank him out of the starting position and insert Gabbert, best known for leading some very bad Jaguars teams.

There were widespread rumors that Kaepernick’s days in San Francisco were certainly done, and Gabbert has played well enough through four games to lead many to believe the team is comfortable going forward with him.

But now there appears to be some doubt. There are reports that Kaepernick is still in the team’s plans for 2016 and could still regain his spot as starter if he’s able to fix the problems with his game that led to the benching. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Kaepernick sat down with general manager Trent Baalke to talk about the team’s ideas for 2016 and free agent strategies, which could be a sign that he is still in the team’s plans.

Grant Cohn of the Press Democrat dug a little deeper to find out what Blaine Gabbert is doing that Colin Kaepernick wasn’t doing — or couldn’t do. He noted that Gabbert is significantly better when it comes to passer rating — 89.5 to Kaepernick’s 78.5. But he said both shared some of the same struggles, including converting on third down and on fooling the defense with run fakes and play-action passes.

Some of the difference may come down to intangibles, Cohn added. He pulled a quote from outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who said on Wednesday that Gabbert won over the locker room and has the look of a leader.

“Just from what I see as his teammate and me not knowing anything about the quarterback position, I see that he makes good decisions,” Brooks said. “When you have the ball in your hands every single play, you’ve got to be the best decision maker on the field because everyone else is relying on you. And, I think he puts other people in good positions to make a play.”

Cohn believes this difference could come from the approach Kaepernick had to deal with pressure. While Gabbert is quicker to check down to a running back, Kaepernick often tried to make something happen himself, extending plays and running the ball.

As a result, Gabbert is taking fewer sacks that Kaepernick took and getting more players involved with the offense.

“I think (Gabbert’s) done a really nice job when the play has started to break down, using his feet or delivering the ball accurately when he’s under duress,” offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said. “For example, the long 18-play drive in the Chicago game — that was really the only drive all game that (Chicago Bears defensive coordinator) Vic (Fangio) actually blitzed. Blaine had really good answers for the blitz, and Vic had to back off the blitz… (Gabbert’s) maturity, his weekly preparation — he’s a prepared quarterback when he goes out there and plays on Sunday.”

But as rumors of Colin Kaepernick’s departure from the San Francisco 49ers continue to swirl, there are already reports of where else he might end up. Reports have placed Kaepernick with the Denver Broncos or Dallas Cowboys, two teams looking for a successor to their aging starters.

[Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]