Just two years ago Colin Kaepernick was said to be the next great quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. He took over for an injured Alex Smith, got the Niners to within a fourth down of winning a Super Bowl and looked to be on top of the world. Instead of ascending, Kaepernick’s world crumbled around him as the 49ers disintegrated, the team parted ways with quarterback whisperer John Harbaugh and Kaerpernick fell underneath all the wreckage.
It sounds like he’s seeking a fresh start. Even with the Niners bringing in former Oregon and Eagles head coach Chip Kelly last month, the writing on the wall is that Kaepernick is done in the Bay Area and may have eyes for the New York Jets.
Kaepernick wanting out of San Francisco isn’t shocking, as he was benched for backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert last year and never had a chance to get his job back. The 49ers also didn’t do a great job putting quality talent around him on offense, and instead let him sink. Much of the blame for San Francisco’s free fall from Super Bowl contenders to NFC West fodder fell on Kaepernick’s shoulders, and it’s easy to see why he’d probably want to remove himself from his current situation.
Many felt that the addition of Kelly could help Kaepernick, but Kelly was quick to point out that Kaepernick wasn’t the only suitable athlete who could play quarterback on the 49ers roster – that Gabbert could also be the right fit for his offense. Whether that comment rubbed Kap the wrong way or he has been planning his exit for the past few months doesn’t matter. The point is he’s looking for a way out currently and the Jets could be his ticket.
New York leaned hard on veteran gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick a year ago, and as good as he was for most of 2015, he was a big reason why the team failed to make the playoffs. Fitzpatrick caved under the pressure and tossed three picks in a bad loss to the Bills in week 17, when a win would have pushed Gang Green into post-season play. While one game doesn’t make any player, it could have been a telling sign that Fitzpatrick did what he was paid to do, and nothing more.
New York’s quick rise and fall could have them looking in three directions: going back to former would-be franchise quarterback Geno Smith, trusting yet again in Fitzpatrick or moving on to a new outside source – Kaepernick. If it were up to Kaepernick, apparently they’d choose the latter. Whether the Jets do that or not remains to be determined, but there’s no denying the fact that the move would benefit Kaepernick and offer him the fresh start he arguably deserves.
The bigger question for sports bettors is what this could mean for the Jets and 49ers. For San Francisco, not much would change. Kap wasn’t necessarily in their plans and if anything, shedding his contract would grant them freedom to boost their roster. Blaine Gabbert might not be the answer, but in Kelly’s system, it’s been proven the talent under center doesn’t necessarily dictate winning or losing. San Francisco could be fine, if not improved.
The same could be true for the Jets, but they were already a borderline playoff team and it’s tough to say Kaepernick would fare better than Fitzpatrick in an increasingly tough AFC East – not to mention the AFC in general. If he’s the Kaepernick of old, it’s an upgrade and an exciting one that adds the deep ball and elite running ability at the quarterback position. It also could be a huge step back for a New York team that appeared to make serious progress in 2015.