Tag: Colin Kaepernick

How Should the Niners Fill the QB Vacuum?

Ever since the San Francisco 49ers “solved” their head-coaching and front office problems by hiring Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, respectively, the entire Niner Nation has been focused like a laser on how to solve the “Quarterback Problem.”

But let’s face it, folks, we don’t have a quarterback “problem”, we have a quarterback vacuum.

As of this moment, the team has exactly zero quarterbacks on the likely roster of players to start the 2017 season. And that may be just as well. The only legitimate QB on the roster is Colin Kaepernick, who is widely believed to be looking to cut loose from the team before the season begins.

So how should the team go about filling this vacuum?

There are only three ways to get a quarterback in the National Football League. You can trade with another team, pick up a free agent, or select a college graduate in the annual draft. (The other way, of course, is to keep one you already have, but that seems a little unrealistic at the moment; but don’t close that door just yet.)

As you can imagine, the Niners, who hold a number two pick in the first round and have a significant amount of room under the salary cap, are seen as a team with many options for filling this vacuum. Unfortunately, the stars are aligned against them in all three of those places where they might find a franchise signal-caller.

Let’s start with trade and/or free agency.

Patriots QB Jimmy Garapollo

The Niners have been frequently linked with the fortunes of New England Patriots’ backup quarterback Jimmy Garapollo. The third-year man out of Eastern Illinois was a late second-round pick by the Patriots in 2014. Since then, he has appeared in very few games and has run up a quarterback rating of 106.3, which is nothing to brag about. On top of that, there is an old adage in the NFL: the best way to come out ahead in a deal with Patriots’ head coach Bill Bellichick is never to do a deal with Bill Bellichick. Word on the street is that the Pats want a first-round pick for the guy. If the Pats are ready to release him as a backup to an aging (but apparently ageless) Tom Brady, there may be something more to him than meets the eye. The last thing the Niners need now is a quarterback project.

The other possibly tempting trade bait out there is the Washington Redskins’ Kirk Cousins. The team may have put the kibosh on that deal today when they slapped cousins Cousins with the dreaded “franchise” tag for the second year in a row. That makes it more expensive than need be for a team to pick him up, and for a guy with a career passer rating of 93.6, that would be too high a price.

Redskins QB Kirk Cousins

There are two other possible NFL quarterbacks the Niners could be interested in for the short term: Matt Schaub of the Atlanta Falcons, and Jay Cutler of the Bears. The problem with Schaub is his age (35) and in the recent fall off in his productivity caused by making appearances in very few games. Cutler is at the end of his career as well, playing this year at the age of 33, and is clearly not worth any high draft picks or other good talent, of which the Niners have almost none anyway.

What about the college draft?

So if the current crop of available NFL quarterbacks is that sparse, the Niners need to look to the draft as a possible source. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst years for quarterbacks in the college draft that I can recall seeing. Probably the top-ranked college quarterback is Mitch Trubinsky out of Clemson. His stats look really good, but he’s only played one full season as a starter and that came in a spread offense where he always took snaps from the shotgun. That will give any quarterback great accuracy statistics. Not one single NFL scout that I’m aware of has him as a top 10 prospect, and for the Niners to waste their their number 2 pick would be a bad financial decision. Particularly with some really special defensive talent up for grabs at a time when the Niners need help there as well.

So, what to do?

SF QB Colin Kaepernick

Still, the Niners do need a quarterback. With the slim pickings in both trade bait and free agency, and a poor field of draft choices, I think the Niners only have one choice. They must find a way to convince Kaepernick to stay with the team, even if it’s on some sweetheart deal that only gives them one or two years with the club and sets him up for life. I know that’s not a popular idea. I know that Colin has already indicated strongly that he’s not interested in staying, but I also know his value on the open market is pretty low, not only because of the drop-off in his performance but also because of his unpopular political views. He could destabilize a locker room pretty fast.

Then I think the Niners should look to using their second round pick for a long-term backup solution by finding someone who has the potential to be a top-flight NFL quarterback with some work. The two guys who seem most likely in that capacity are Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech and Reuben Foster of Alabama.

As of this evening, there are rumors that the Niners could go with Foster as their first-round pick, but I think that would be ill-advised unless they know they’ve got Kaepernick locked in as the kid’s mentor.

So there you have my current thinking on the question. The vacuum must be filled, obviously. If Colin is a non-starter, the Niners are pretty well screwed in 2017 because they won’t have a quarterback on whom they can build a long-term franchise, let alone one ready to step in and win this year. That’s probably okay, because none of the fans expect the team to be a winner again for 2 to 4 years.

Can you say “long rebuild”, boys and girls?

 

Is the “New Colin” a Ray of Hope for Niners?

The murkiness of the 49ers’ quarterbacking situation for 2016 gained a little illumination this week from an unlikely source.

According to press reports, last season’s starter, Colin Kaepernick, conducted an unusually long and entirely upbeat press conference as part of the on-going minicamp. Beat reporters were astonished. Last year, Kaepernick was sullen, private, and curt in his interactions with the press. So this is quite a change!

SF quarterback Colin Kaepernick

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick

During the exchange, Kaepernick made several positive comments about the new Niners’ head coach, Chip Kelly, and the two coaches primarily responsible for dealing with the quarterbacks as well. He says he’s looking forward to the 2016 season and to making a major contribution to the team. When asked about the trade rumors that swirled around him during the off-season, Kaepernick said, “What trade rumors?”

This may be an aberration. He’s not one of the more outgoing guys in the NFL. And he’s of course highly motivated at this point to ingratiate himself again with the team that treated him so disrespectfully in 2015, albeit not without some justification.

Assuming it’s not an aberration, however, this has to be a delightful development to Niners fans, even though it probably doesn’t signal a major improvement in their prospects for the upcoming season. I, for one, am sure I will enjoy the team under his leadership far more than I ever would with the mediocre and unexciting Blaine Gabbert at the helm.

Go Niners?

Niners Appear Ready to Screw Up Yet Another QB

It feels like about time that I cast a jaundiced eye in the direction of the San Francisco 49ers once again. And in the current state of things, that means essentially kibitzing about the quarterback situation.

kaep_running_towardUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that one-time potential superstar Colin Kaepernick had a rough season last year. Halfway through the campaign, he was replaced by a seriously mediocre Blaine Gabbert and during the off-season he has undergone shoulder surgery, rendering his future with the team more than somewhat questionable. On top of that, the Niners have hired a new head coach in Chip Kelly, whose offensive mindset is very much aligned with Colin’s strengths. Say what you will about Kap, he is among the top two or three quarterbacks in the NFL, when evaluated based on athleticism. His arm is a cannon. His legs are like helicopter blades. In general he fits very well into the kind of spread offense Kelly has always championed.

So it would seem a good fit. The problem is, Kap appears to be in a bit of a bad mood. Several weeks ago, it was widely reported that he had demanded to be traded, was no longer interested in being in San Francisco, and was just unhappy. For a short time, it seemed like the Denver Broncos might give him a new home, one in which he would also have been well-suited to the head coach’s offensive strategies. But the Broncos were unwilling to part with anything higher than a mid-level draft choice, which the Niners apparently concluded wasn’t sufficient compensation. So an April 1 deadline which resulted in the QB’s receiving close to $12 million in guaranteed payments, came and went.

Speculation then became rampant that the Niners would draft a quarterback in the college draft. They did not. Which seemed to indicate, at least to some of us, that they were in fact going to be happy with Kap at least for the 2015 season.

Apparently not.

Today, it appears that, whether or not Kap returns as the starter or rides the bench in the second or third position, the team wants to place its future bets on Gabbert. Which, to me, means that they are taking seriously the clear truth that they are going to be in rebuilding mode for the next two or three seasons. Gabbert is not the kind of guy you build a playoff contender around. It’s not even clear he’s a decent day-to-day quarterback in the NFL.

Interestingly, former superstar quarterback Joe Montana, in a recent interview, suggested that the potential for breaking this logjam lies with Kap himself. According to him, Colin is a quiet guy who does not communicate much with his fellow players or with the coaching staff and management. This sense of isolation makes it difficult for him to overcome any obstacles or disagreements or disappointments that may arise between him and other parts of the organization. So it might be argued that the situation is entirely in Kap’s control. Get an attitude adjustment, open up to your fellow players and your coaches, and pitch in to build a decent season for a rebuilding team.

Call me a pessimist, but I’m not inclined to believe that that scenario has any likelihood of happening. Rather, I fully expect the Niners will blindly ignore a man who is easily the best quarterback on the roster in the interest of protecting the egos of those in the front office who have consistently in recent years demonstrated their impatience with anyone who doesn’t conform to their ring-kissing demands. This can only serve to prolong the rebuilding time for the team.

The best possible outcome I see for 2015 would be for the Niners simply to cut Kap and let him find a new home where his athleticism will be appreciated and where his skills fit the offensive scheme. Short of that, this season could ruin the career of otherwise perfectly capable signal-caller who deserves much better.

The Kap Saga Drags On…and On…as Niners Look to Completely Rebuild

49ers logoMost of the news during this NFL off-season as far as the 49ers are concerned has focused on the quarterback situation. One-time superstar darling Colin Kaepernick was benched near the end of the 2015 campaign, giving way to little-used backup Blaine Gabbert. Now, it’s fairly obvious to everyone that Gabbert is not a premium NF signal-caller. He doesn’t have the physical skill or the stats to earn that assessment.

The problem is, this is a very weak year for drafting quarterbacks out of college. And while it appears that Kaepernick is willing, even eager, to be traded, the Niners have not yet been able to put together a deal with a team that really needs him. The most recent rumors swirled around the Denver Broncos, who would find him a great fit for a number of reasons. But they were apparently only willing to part with a mid-round draft pick in return for the once stellar-performing Niners’ QB.

Given that the Niners have decided to go with the unproven, mediocre Chip Kelly as their new head coach, and given his offensive propensities, my guess is that Colin would be a great QB fit for the team. I don’t know where the impetus for the trade is coming from. It may be from Colin himself, which wouldn’t be surprising given the way the Niners have screwed his career. On the other hand, there were early rumors that the team really doesn’t think he’s worth the contract he now has, a contract which produced a hefty guaranteed payment on April 1.

I’m not inclined to participate in the speculation about what might happen to Colin. My considered opinion is that he had at one time the potential to be a well-above-average NFL quarterback (though I was angry over the trade of his predecessor, Alex Smith, and still am), but that he’s probably no longer in that class. Between switching offensive coordinators every season, and front-office turmoil — to say nothing of the 2015 personnel losses that have all but decimated the squad — he’s probably much better off finding greener grass. If I were him, I would certainly be leaning in that direction in the absence of a serious commitment on the part of the Niners. That’s a commitment current ownership and management seems unwilling to make.

About the only good news coming out of this mess is that the Niners have huge salary cap space. They should be in a position to shore up most of their needs, even if it costs them more money than they’d like to spend. With the draft only a little more than two weeks away, fantasy players and prognosticators are going crazy trying to create the mock draft that will get the Niners to a point of something close to respectability. My guess is that we’re at least two years from having a competitive team again, regardless of what the team does at quarterback. And that’s just going to have to be okay. We Niners’ fans became spoiled during the days and 90s; it’s time to suck it up and watch other teams enjoy success.

Niners Open Spring Workouts With Kaep a Big Question Mark That Shouldn’t Be

49ers logoNFL teams begin their spring workout schedules tomorrow on the same day as Major League Baseball launches the official 2016 season. This produces information overload for sports junkies.

The San Francisco 49ers enter the workout sessions with a huge question mark at quarterback, a question mark that shouldn’t be there and that bewilders almost everyone observing it. QB Colin Kaepernick, who two seasons ago was given a massive contract as he was seen by the team as their future superstar, is apparently this close to being traded to the Denver Broncos for a stinking mid-round draft pick. I was never a big fan of Kaep, but I have to say, I think the team is making a huge mistake here. Colin is tailor-made for new head coach Chip Kelly’s offensive philosophy, he has a sterling record as the QB with the lone exception of the 2015 season which was a disaster for the entire team thanks to the idiotic decision to hire lightweight Jim Tomsula as “head” coach, and he’s a victim of bad coaching and too many offensive coordinators.

As Cole Little at EndZoneScore.com opines:

So why are the Niners looking to rid themselves of Kaepernick before giving him a shot under the leadership of Kelly? And why are they doing it after all of the good quarterbacks are off the free agent market? And, also, why are they doing it in a year in which the quarterback draft class is as weak as this one? Beats me.

Face it, fans. The Niners are in a rebuilding period that will probably last 2-3 seasons at least. Wouldn’t you rather have a QB with a proven track record and some locker room chops at the helm while a discarded head coach and the worst management team in the NFL wanders around bumping into walls trying to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear?

Yeesh.

Gabbert Hasn’t “Earned” a 2016 Starting Role Yet, You Nincompoop

I get it. Guys like Grant Cohn over at Bleacher Report get paid to make stupid statements that will trigger lots of backlinks and heated discussion on the Web. Most of the time, I just shrug and let it pass.

blaine_gabbert

SF 49ers Backup QB Blaine Gabbert

But Cohn’s latest hypothesis that the Niners can just release their multi-year starting QB Colin Kaepernick without a backward glance because his sub Blaine Gabbert “showed he deserves to be the starting quarterback in 2016” by his mostly mediocre but winning performance against Da Bears on Sunday.

Gimme a freaking break, Grant!

I mean, seriously. I don’t fault the Niners for benching Kaep, even though I think he was probably responsible for only about 1/3 of his declining performance. Lousy head coaching and piss-poor game planning had a lot more to do with his drop than anything else. But no team fires a newly hired “head” coach halfway through his first season; to do so would be to admit the Head Shed made a mistake and Head Sheds never do that.

But Gabbert “posted a passer rating of 64.5 until the final play of overtime (more on that below) and led the offense to just 14 points the first four quarters,” as Cohn himself pointed out.  His big recommendation for a starting job in 2016? “He didn’t make any mistakes.” Well, whoopty-do. It was bad enough Cohn said that “he played like the second coming of Alex Smith,” (a ridiculously over-the-top statement akin to the ravings of The Donald) but then he had the audacity to opine that, “with the game on the line, Gabbert played like the second coming of Steve Young.”

SERIOUSLY??!!!

You gotta be kidding me!

It’s one thing to troll for feedback, dude, but when you go so over the top that your readers have trouble picking themselves up off the floor after rolling there for laughter for several minutes, you might want to re-think your occupation.

Gabbert deserves to be in the mix for 2016. He may, by the end of the season and based only on sustained performance, even deserve to be the default starter. But Kaep was a way-above-average QB for too many seasons to let one mediocre campaign sideline him forever when the real problem was his “head” coach and management.

I can guarantee you this. If the Niners dump Kaep, the team that picks him up will be laughing all the way to the playoff bank. And if the Niners don’t dump “head” coach Jim Tomsula, Niners’ fans can expect 2-4 more years of the same crappy football we put up with this season. But at least Jed York and Trent Baalke’s egos will remain intact.

Yeesh.

 

 

Niners’ Win Over Falcons Meaningless, But Telling

49ers-FalconsThe San Francisco 49ers won a football game Sunday. They beat the 6-2 Atlanta Falcons. Can’t you feel the excitement in my voice? Ah. Didn’t think so.

The win, which has the Niners at 3-6 with a bye week coming up, is fairly meaningless because:

  1. The Falcons didn’t appear to send the A Team onto the field. Instead, they played flat and complacent, taking the win for granted. That’s always a mistake. The Falcons lost this one far more clearly than the Niners won.
  2. The Niners were without several key players, including three of the four starting corners, so it’s hard to take any lesson from the game with any certainty.
  3. A one-point victory at home is never a good sign. Conventional wisdom gives the home team a three-point advantage before we start tallying comparative strengths and weaknesses. (But the Niners were huge underdogs, so there is that….)
  4. Backup QB Blaine Gabbert, pushed into the starting role, was almost bound to have a decent game in his first start in 3+ seasons. In that setup, he’s almost a rookie and the Falcons’ defense couldn’t quite figure him out. Next game won’t have that same advantage.

Still, a win is a win. A year from now, few will remember the weakness of the opponent or the good fortune (along with some good coaching; more on that in a moment) that led to the victory. It’s in the W column and that’s what counts long-term.

The defense played particularly well Sunday against a top-10-ranked Atlanta offense. Particularly noteworthy was the fact that they held Devonta Freeman, the league’s second-leading rusher, to 12 rushing yards on 12 carries. This may say more about Eric Mangini, the twice-head-coach-turned-defensive-coordinator, than about the on-field talent. Still, that’s impressive.

Gabbert was average, which is to say much better than Colin Kaepernick has been the last two outings in particular. He definitely earned the coaching staff’s confidence, which they demonstrated by announcing him as the starter Week 11 after the bye this week.

All in all, a squeaker win from which we could take a very few lessons but not garner much long-term hope. I’ll take it.

Tony Dungy on Kaep: It’s Not a Talent Problem

I’ve always respected Tony Dungy as a football coach. In a piece today on USA Today, Dungy braced the Niners’ front office’s decision to bench QB Colin Kaepernick. Here’s his comment, with which I heartily agree:

“I think the guy is good, and someone that has been to championship games and has looked so good and did some things so well early on his career, I just don’t see how it falls off that quickly,” Dungy said. “I don’t think it’s talent, I don’t think it’s ability. I think he can be a starter again, and I think he’ll get with someone that gets it back out of him.”

Translation: It’s the coaching, stupid. Or it’s the stupid coaching. Take your pick.

Let the 49ers Blood-Letting Begin. In All the Wrong Places!

In the past few hours, the Niners have announced the trade of veteran franchise-making tight end Vernon Davis and the benching of Colin Kaepernick in favor of his ludicrously unqualified backup, Blaine Gabbert. As the team attempts to deal with the dismal 2-6 record accumulated so far this season, it seems intent on making every possible wrong move and not making moves that could actually improve things.

“Head” Coach Jim Tomsula is the main problem. He should be axed forthwith.

The offensive line sucks and is a major reason for Kaep’s weak performance so far. Shoring up the line and maybe replacing either or both the offensive coordinator (Geep Chryst) and the O-Line coach (Chris Foerster). Maybe elevate a couple of guys off the second rank and give them a shot? It’s obviously too late for these moves to have a measurable impact this season but the symbolism of those moves would perhaps make some difference to the players.

Davis, a 10-year starter with the Niners and a staple at the all-important TE post in a West Coast offense, has appeared in six games this season, collecting 18 catches for 194 yards. That’s a decent per-game average that the team will have difficulty making up.

But that won’t be as visible as it might otherwise be because Gabbert, who’s the new signal-caller, hasn’t started a game since 2011. After a promising start at Jacksonville in 2011, he faded fast before being picked up by the Niners. He has virtually no legs and is interception-prone. But he’s the guy the Niners think can salvage some of their season?

More screwups by GM Trent Baalke who probably didn’t even discuss these moves with his yes-man “head” coach.

It’s one thing for a once-storied franchise to have an off year and to need rebuilding, It’s quite another for it to deliberately tear down the wrong parts and rebuild them with lower quality.

Laughingstock may be too good a name for these guys.

Kaep is Struggling alright, but it’s not his alone

Everyone seems to be calling for Colin Kaepernick’s head these days. The 49ers QB is having a pretty terrible season. Whenever that happens and the team isn’t playing well, he’s usually the first guy people look to chop.

But as much as I’m no big fan of the Kaeped Krusader, I’m not ready to see him cut yet. Besides, does anyone thing Blaine Gabbert would be even a marginally adequate replacement?

Didn’t think so.

The main problem with the 49ers is and will continue to be “head coach” Jim Tomsula. The guy’s just not ready for the job he’s been thrust into. The defense is playing nearly as badly as the offense and Kaep has nothing to do with that.

Case in point on Tomsula is Jared Hyde, the Aussie rugby player who has been essentially exiled because of a couple of dropped punts. OK, three. Still, if you benched everyone on the team who’s made multiple mistakes, the Niners couldn’t field a bowling team.

As long as Tomsula has the reins, the Niners will meander all over the place. If CK is the problem, then let’s find a replacement, get him ready and then do the swap. But to make an abrupt change now would only demoralize the core of the team which sees Kaep as the main point of stability and one of the primary sources of hope for a team that has been cut adrift by stupid owners.