NOTE: If you're a person who believes that we should only discuss negative points about the 49ers because they are coming off yet another loss, then I'll warn you ahead of time: this article might not be for you.
The 49ers have the worst group of wide receivers in the league. Isn't that what most people agreed on prior to the season? I hesitate to speak in such absolute terms about matters that involve opinion, but by any measure, if they are not the worst, they are certainly the least accomplished. Also, 8% of the passes attempted by 49ers' quarterbacks this year have been dropped by receivers. Not 8% of the incompletions, but 8% of the attempts. That's a staggering amount of dropped passes. The league average is 5%.
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Yet, here we are, six games into Colin Kaepernick's tenure as starting quarterback under Chip Kelly, and the offense is looking, dare I say, pretty good. In the four games since the bye week, Kaepernick has completed just under 60% of his passes, averaging 278 yards per game, with 8 TD's against 2 INT's, for a QB rating of 96.0. He's also averaging 7.69 yards per carry, giving Kelly the dynamic runner at quarterback that he hasn't had since his days at Oregon. Most importantly, Kaepernick has gotten better week after week, which means the best may be yet to come.
On Sunday, against the Miami Dolphins #7 ranked defense, Kaepernick played his best game yet. He completed 63% of his passes, going 29-of-46 for 296 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception, which was actually a drop by Torrey Smith. He added 113 yards on 10 carries on the ground.
Now, even if you're one of the many people who hate Chip Kelly and/or Colin Kaepernick and want to see them gone more than anything in life, doesn't that make you wonder what this offense might look like with legitimate, dynamic threats at the wide receiver and tight end positions? At least a little bit?
Available free agent wide receivers for the 2017 season include Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor, Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson (unlikely, I know), Kenny Britt, Michael Floyd, and several others who would provide an immediate upgrade at the position. How about the NFL Draft and a big, explosive wide receiver like Mike Williams of Clemson or one of the other intriguing prospects?
Tight Ends who will be available in free agency include Jordan Cameron, Martellus Bennett, Jermaine Gresham and Jared Cook. The 49ers have more salary cap room than any team besides the Cleveland Browns. Whether or not they will use it is another matter.
Coaches don't get fired after one season in the NFL very often. The fact that it happened in San Francisco last year probably makes it more unlikely to see it happen twice in a row. However, if General Manager Trent Baalke is fired, anything would be possible with a new regime.
Assuming Chip Kelly is back next season, where can he get a quarterback that will perform better than Kaepernick currently is in his system? The best available free agent quarterbacks next season are Kirk Cousins and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Think about that for a minute. Take away Kirk Cousins, because the Redskins are not letting him get out of the building, even if it means using the franchise tag again. Are you ready for 16 games of Ryan Fitzpatrick?
Are you ready to spend a number one pick on the suddenly-hot prospect Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina? Do you spend it on Clemson's Deshaun Watson, who was expected to be the #1 overall prospect, but has cooled off in the eyes of many scouts? Or DeShone Kizer, who has led Notre Dame to a 4-8 season? Even if you draft one of those players, or another quarterback in a later round, do you trust them as a day one starter in the NFL? Are you ready for the uncertainty that comes with that? Wouldn't it make sense to retain Kaepernick, who's already under contract for next year, while the next quarterback gets ready if you're still not convinced he's the long-term solution?
There are 5 games left in what has been a dismal season, and even though the season has long been over as far as wins and losses, the evaluation process does not stop. Whether you like him or not, Chip Kelly's offense has shown from the beginning of the year that it can get less than stellar receivers open in space. Now that those receivers are being hit with more consistency, we are starting to see what the potential for this offense could be. Although it has not translated into wins, the combination of Chip Kelly and Colin Kaepernick are showing that they may just be the best option for the 49ers to build around for next season.