Known this season primarily for his pre-game protests, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick gets the opportunity to start this Sunday against the Bills.
So far in the 2016 NFL season, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been in the news for his public protest of what he believes is the oppression of certain people in our society. His sitting and then kneeling during the playing of the national anthem prior to games has been one of the most covered and most talked about items related to the sports world this year. On Sunday, Kaepernick will have the opportunity to alter those discussions. His success, or failure, will largely determine how the Monday water cooler talks will pan out.
Kaepernick, who is in his sixth year in the league all with the 49ers, has not started a game for San Francisco since Week 8 of the 2015 season. The 49ers were blown out by the Rams, then in St. Louis, and Kaepernick was demoted in favor of Blaine Gabbert, who has started the team’s first five games this season. After some redemption over the Rams, now in L.A., in the season opener, Gabbert has struggled.
New San Francisco head coach Chip Kelly would likely have gone to the bullpen in search of Kaepernick earlier had it not been for a series of injuries that had left the former Nevada star less than 100 percent. Kaepernick missed the end of the 2015 season after deciding to have surgery to repair a shoulder injury. That injury was not fully healed when Kaepernick reported to training camp this year. He did not play much in the preseason and has not taken a snap yet this regular season.
That all changes on Sunday when San Francisco travels to Buffalo to face the 3-2 Bills. Buffalo did not look good the first two weeks of the season but have come on strong to win their last three games. Head coach Rex Ryan has repaired a defense that lost several key starters to injury and the Bills running game – thanks to LeSean McCoy – has led to wins over Arizona, New England, and Los Angeles.
Kaepernick was built for Kelly’s offense. While at Nevada, he became the only quarterback in the history of the FBS to rush for over 4,000 yards and pass for more than 10,000. He ran head coach Chris Ault’s Pistol offense as if it were made for him. Kelly likes to run the zone read that is popular at the college level and Kaepernick is very good at it.
When Kaepernick burst onto the NFL scene in 2012, then 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh utilized Kaepernick a lot in the running game. In 13 games total – he started seven – Kaepernick passed for 1,814 yards and rushed for 415 more. He accounted for 15 total touchdowns (10 passing, 5 rushing). Kaepernick led the 49ers into the playoffs where he set the NFL single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 181 in a 45-31 win over Green Bay. San Francisco advanced all the way to the Super Bowl that year, but lost to Baltimore.
Kaepernick had two good years in 2013 and 2014, but the team suffered. Harbaugh left after the 2014 season and the 49ers were not very good under Jim Tomsula last year. They are still not very good defensively and losing LB Navorro Bowman for the season hasn’t helped. Still, if Kaepernick is able to give the offense some spark, there is a chance for improvement. Should that happen, it will surely change the discussion about the 49ers quarterback.