From the moment Chip Kelly entered the NFL as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2013 season, NFL observers have speculated that he’d love to have Colin Kaepernick play quarterback.
They’ve spoken and written of how Kaepernick would be a perfect fit for his fast-paced, wide-open offense that includes read-option schemes and is designed for a mobile quarterback.
Even this past November, when Kelly’s Eagles were struggling with the immobile Sam Bradford at quarterback and Kaepernick was injured and had lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert, the NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger told a Philadelphia radio show that a Kelly-Kaepernick marriage would be a plus for the Eagles in 2016.
“There’s things that he needs to get better at,” Baldinger said. “But I would put Kaepernick in this system and I certainly would take him. There’s nobody else like him available. There’s nobody else like him in the draft that is a perfect fit for what they want to do with him. With him, you would make the defense defend all 11 players out there, which they can’t do right now.”
Now, the Kelly-Kaepernick pairing has indeed occurred, but with the 49ers.
With the announcement Thursday that Kelly is coming to San Francisco on a four-year deal, it appears more likely that Kaepernick – who fell out of favor with the team in the middle of the season and was replaced by Gabbert – will be a part of Kelly’s plans.
Following a 5-11 season, many analysts were writing that Kaepernick would soon be shipped to another team and that Gabbert or a quarterback from this year’s draft, would be leading the team in 2016.
On Thursday, that all changed. As Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback wrote Friday, Kelly’s hiring is an indication that 49ers general manager Trent Baalke hasn’t given up on Kaepernick’s potential. Kelly likely is confident that Kaepernick can be a nice fit for his system.
“Hearing a plan to salvage Kaepernick, who is signed by San Francisco through 2020 (albeit on a flexible contract that gives the team off-ramps each year), was no doubt top of conversation during the 49ers’ interviews with coaching candidates,” Vrentas wrote.
Plus, there’s this:
Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury reported Thursday that prices on Kaepernick-related merchandise in the 49ers’ team store had been boosted back to regular status after those items had been put on reduced, clearance-level prices in November when Kaepernick lost his starting job.
Wrote Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, about that 49ers move: “No, we choose not to believe this is a coincidence. The 49ers – or the individual with final say in team store pricing – is absolutely positive Kaepernick will return to the path to superstardom and Kelly will be the man to lead him there.”