When the 49ers hired Chip Kelly to coach the team, many assumed that he’d want to try to make quarterback Colin Kaepernick into the star he was becoming under Jim Harbaugh. If that’s what Kelly plans to do, he has a strange way of making his intentions known.
Kelly has tried to deflect any and all comments about Kaepernick, citing the prohibition in the Collective Bargaining Agreement on communications with players before the start of the offseason program. Kelly twisted that rule to the point of implausibility in a Wednesday interview with CSN Bay Area.
“I’m not allowed to comment about [Kaepernick] in terms of how he fits into any system because of the CBA rules of we’re not allowed to discuss football, I’m not allowed to say who fits where and how they fit,” Kelly said. “So I’m gonna wait until April 4 to discuss Kap and the offense.”
First of all, Kelly is allowed to talk to the media about players under contract with his team. Said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy via email, “Not an issue here for a coach to talk about his own players.” Likewise, the NFL Players Association pointed to no provision that would extend the rules limiting communication with players prior to the offseason program to communications about players prior to the offseason program.
Indeed, Kelly had plenty to say about quarterback Nick Foles when Kelly was introduced as the head coach of the Eagles.
“In terms of Nick, I know him because we played against him [at Oregon],” Kelly said in January 2013. “I’m a huge fan of his. He’s tough. It’s an attribute that I think a lot of people don’t understand of how hard it is and what toughness means to the quarterback spot. To just be able to stand in the pocket and throw the football [is tough]. We hit him as many times as we could hit him and he just kept getting up and making plays. He completed a 13-yard pass left handed against us once and I remember just standing on the sideline shaking my head [saying], ‘What do we have to do to stop him?’ He’s a competitor, he’s accurate, so I’m excited about that.”
Making the situation with Kaepernick even more bizarre is that Kelly plans to not even begin the process of talking to or about his quarterback until April 4 — four days after the team has to decide whether to allow Kaepernick’s $11.9 million salary to become fully guaranteed or to trade or cut him.
If Kelly doesn’t want Kaepernick, this is the smart way to play it, since it allows the 49ers to try to make a team that wants Kaepernick think he won’t be cut. If Kelly wants Kaepernick, it’s a weird way to go about making him feel welcome.
Consider a new coach saying these same things about Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton or any other clear-cut franchise quarterback. If it’s a no-brainer that the quarterback is staying, the comment would be, “Of course he’s our quarterback. Why are you even asking that?”
Kelly’s remarks create the impression that Kaepernick won’t be the quarterback, and that Kelly and the 49ers are holding out hope that they can get something of value in return for the balance of his contract.