Cases for and against 49ers trading Colin Kaepernick
Chip Kelly’s arrival in San Francisco was widely regarded as a positive for Colin Kaepernick. The fifth-year QB has regressed every season since his breakout 2012, ultimately falling behind teammate Blaine Gabbert in the pecking order in 2015. Despite appearing to be a good fit on paper, Kaepernick’s camp has expressed a desire to be traded elsewhere this offseason. Is San Francisco the best spot for his development, or would a new home facilitate a return to his previous form?
To answer this question, we take a look at both options, as well as a potential destination if he chooses to move on from the 49ers.
Why Kaepernick should stay
Kelly’s offense boosts QB production.
Regardless of the quarterback, Chip Kelly has generated production from the passing game in the NFL. While the lack of diversity in his run concepts was exposed in 2015, Kelly’s ability to scheme receivers open has been evident throughout his three years in the NFL. Nick Foles completed 65 percent of his passes and generated 8.8 yards per attempt in 2013. Sam Bradford also recorded career-highs in completion percentage (65.0) and YPA (7.0) in his only season under the former Oregon head coach. Even Mark Sanchez boosted his completion percentage from around the 55 percent mark to around 65 percent in his two years in Philadelphia.
Return of the dual-threat QB.
Kaepernick also provides the first legitimate running threat from the quarterback position of Chip Kelly’s career. Aside from the aforementioned Bradford and Sanchez, the only other signal-caller Kelly has added to a roster is Matt Barkley, who won’t be out-running defensive ends on the zone-read any time soon. Kelly adapted his offense to make up for the limited athleticism of his quarterbacks, incorporating the run/pass option in place of the zone-read. That wouldn’t be necessary with Kaepernick at the helm, and should provide the numbers-game advantage Kelly seeks on the ground.
Why Kaepernick should leave
Kelly prioritizes accuracy,
Accuracy has never been Kaepernick’s best asset, a trait Kelly prioritizes in his offense. He did achieve an accuracy percentage of 76.0 in his best season (2012), but has never surpassed 72.6 percent since. The up-tempo offense Kelly employs functions most effectively when the offense is able to generate positive plays consistently. High-tempo coupled with forward momentum—against a defense unable to substitute—is a dangerous combination. In contrast, incompletions slow the tempo and disrupt the momentum; Kaepernick’s inaccuracy may well prove an issue in Kelly’s offense.
Kaepernick’s timing needs work,
Negative plays undermine Kelly’s up-tempo offense to an even greater extent. Clearly sacks are never desirable, but other offensive minds are more willing to accept the risk of broken plays with the potential reward. Kelly prefers his passers to stick within the scripted offense, methodically moving the football down the field by getting the ball out quickly. Timing is a priority of Kelly’s, and Kaepernick needs a lot of work in this regard. Over the course of his career, the 49ers QB has been responsible for 28 sacks, four hits, and seven hurries. He tends to hold the ball and wait for his receivers to get open. In fact, Kaepernick was the seventh-slowest QB to get the ball out in 2015, indicating that improvement is required with his timing.
Kaepernick would fit well with Jets.
The Jets seem committed to the notion that Fitzpatrick is not worth a long-term contract. The veteran QB has never flashed the kind upside of Kaepernick displayed in his breakout season. The Jets’ organization might believe Kaepernick is worth gambling on, especially as their relatively successful season leaves them with an outside chance of snagging one of the top rookie QBs. Kaepernick might also prove a good fit in Chan Gailey’s aggressive, vertical offense. Fitzpatrick was the sixth-most aggressive QB in 2015 (throwing 15.6 percent of his targets downfield). A receiving corps featuring both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker might also appeal to Kaepernick’s camp. He’ll have more license to take risks, with Marshall’s ability at the catch point and Devin Smith’s speed likely to come in handy. If Kaepernick leave Santa Clara, New York make the most sense.