Rumors regarding the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers for the 2016 season are spiraling, and new head coach Chip Kelly may have hinted at his preference. While Kelly was originally predicted to choose Colin Kaepernick in order to run his zone-read offense, he may actually prefer the more traditional quarterback in Blaine Gabbert.
In Philadelphia, many analysts and fans speculated that Kelly’s offense was always held back without an athletic and mobile quarterback. While Kelly preferred mobile quarterbacks when he was the head coach of Oregon, there is no evidence that he is looking for this in the NFL. In Philadelphia, Kelly’s offense was actually at its best with Nick Foles at the quarterback position, as opposed to an aging, yet still mobile, Michael Vick.
While much of the decline in the Eagles offense in 2015 can be attributed to Kelly letting go of a lot of their offensive talent, there was still the opportunity to insert an athletic quarterback into the lineup. Instead, Kelly opted to go with traditional pocket passer Sam Bradford, and the offense actually improved towards the end of the year.
Now as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Chip Kelly already has a mobile quarterback on his roster in Colin Kaepernick. While Kaepernick has struggled in recent years, he appears on the surface to be the perfect project for Kelly to revitalize. In addition to leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, Kaepernick has shown flashes of brilliance as a passer and runner.
When asked about Kaepernick in his press conference today, Kelly did not exactly give him glowing reviews.
Chip Kelly gets a Colin Kaepernick question 1st: I've had a chance to meet Kap. … We have a lot of time. It's a process we'll go through…"— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 20, 2016
Chip Kelly asked about @Kaepernick7: "The main thing is putting a staff together. After that, we'll evaluate the personnel."— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) January 20, 2016
According to Mercury News, Kelly brought Gabbert’s name into the conversation when he was further pressed about Kaepernick.
“Obviously Kap is an extremely talented football player and you need a good quarterback to win. But I was also impressed from the film I watched in terms of how Blaine played this year. So I think statistics will bear out that you probably need two quarterbacks in this league with the injury rate that quarterbacks have. I think both of those players make this an attractive situation. In terms of Kap, he was very difficult for us to play against on this field two years ago. I haven’t done a ton of tape study on how he played (last year). We’re in that process right now.”
While Kelly has likely been extremely busy over the course of the past few days, it is unlikely that he has not studied last year’s tapes from Kaepernick and Gabbert. After an ugly ending to his tenure as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelly more than likely knows exactly which quarterback he prefers. After all, this could be his last chance in the NFL, and he has to get this decision correct.
In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Greg Cosell of NFL Films also believes that Kelly may prefer Gabbert to Kaepernick.
“I could easily see Gabbert being more effective in Chip’s offense than Kaepernick. Now one of the problems that Chip has had in the NFL is he likes to get five (pass catchers) out, which increases the pressure on your quarterback. And that’s not Gabbert’s strength. And you need a really good o-line, which he did not have in Philly and which he certainly does not have in San Francisco as we speak right now.”
While Gabbert may struggle with pressure, he is still viewed as a more accurate passer than Kaepernick. As with every NFL coach, Kelly has said in the past that accuracy is one of the most important traits in a successful quarterback. While Gabbert’s career completion percentage of 55.8 percent is lower than Kaepernick’s 59.9 percent, he played some of his best football at the end of the 2015 season for the 49ers. His 63.1 percent completion percentage and 7.20 yards per attempt were the highest of his career.
I don't know what Kelly thinks of Kaepernick but it is interesting--at the presser and after--that he kept mentioning Blaine Gabbert.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) January 20, 2016
Wednesday morning one-liners include the possibility that Chip Kelly may prefer Blaine Gabbert over Colin Kaepernick https://t.co/o4St6qZNW3— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 20, 2016
Being a member of the dysfunctional Jacksonville Jaguars for the first few years of his career, Gabbert’s numbers may also look worse than they really are. While current Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is putting up huge numbers in Jacksonville, they now have weapons on offense that Gabbert never had. He just was not put in a great situation to succeed in Jacksonville.
While Chip Kelly is unlikely to announce the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers until the team goes through training camp, and possibly a preseason game or two, Blaine Gabbert appears to have a real shot at winning the job. As reported by the Inquisitr, there are even rumors going around that the 49ers could bring Robert Griffin III in, which could put Kaepernick’s spot on the team in jeopardy.
[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]