A lot of us believe Nov. 8 is national pick the lesser of two evils day but for Chip Kelly, it might as well be Groundhog Day because the San Francisco 49ers coach is already forced to go with the lesser of his two evils every day at practice.
Back at the start of the season, that was Blaine Gabbert as Kelly took to the stump to sell his talking points, things like the former first-round bust in Jacksonville was more athletic and accurate than you think and could easily handle Kelly’s up-tempo, quarterback-friendly system.
Five games in that narrative was exposed as the 49ers followed up a stunning 28-0 opening-day win over the Los Angeles Rams with four consecutive losses and Gabbert was the same guy he always has been, a wildly inconsistent player incapable of handling a starting job in the NFL.
Once the 49ers worked out a renegotiated deal with Colin Kaepernick that took guaranteed money off the table for 2017, the former starter, who was once an ascending star in a different lifetime, was magically thrust back in the mix despite the fact he did not regain the 20 pounds of lost muscle Kelly claimed was impeding his entrance back into the lineup.
Kaepernick is now more of a social activist than a football player and was predictably awful in Buffalo on Sunday, finishing 13 of 29 for 187 yards and a touchdown, as the 49ers were routed 45-16.
Following the game, an anonymous Bills player offered a harsh assessment of Kaepernick’s future when talking to BleacherReport.com.
“Done. Terrible. More a distraction than a contributing member of the team,” the player said.
Others put their names behind their critiques, including Bills star cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
“We wanted to do everything we could to make him throw the ball,” Gilmore explained. “I mean, he’s an athlete. You can’t take that from him. But when it comes to passing the ball, he can’t really throw. We wanted to make him beat us with his arm, and he couldn’t do that.”
Despite those harsh assessments Kelly really has nowhere left to go unless he turns to his Jill Stein in former Minnesota bust Christian Ponder, who can best be described as a poor man’s Gabbert.
So Kelly is sticking with the lesser of his two evils for another week and he has decided that is Kaepernick for now.
“Colin will be our quarterback against Tampa Bay,” Kelly said Monday. “I think there are some things he did on Sunday that you can build upon. For his first extended playing time since last year, I thought there were some real positives there that we need to continue to kind of try to build with him and get him going.”
Asked what those positives may have been, Kelly dug deep.
“I think he kept a lot of plays alive and he’s looking not only to, sometimes the protection broke down, but he kept some plays alive from that standpoint,” the coach explained. “Did a good job keeping the ball out of harm’s way. Didn’t throw any interceptions. …I thought he did a good job protecting the football for us on the offensive side of the ball.”
And then, there was the one actual positive that could be clearly defined, Kaepernick’s running ability (he mustered 66 yards on 8 carries in Buffalo).
“Gave us some opportunities there in the run game,” Kelly said. “So, going forward kind of try to build upon what he did this past week.”
Coaches have to stay positive in public but behind closed doors, Kelly knows what’s up.
With these two candidates, Kelly knows he can’t win just like the rest of us when we hit the polls on Election Day.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America