Chip Kelly knows a thing or two about former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, considering they’re both now former 49ers.
Kelly, who will likely be on his way back to the college football ranks after a ho-hum stint in the NFL, opened up about Kaepernick and the perceived slights about him as an NFL quarterback. Kaepernick, of course, took a major stance in protest of the National Anthem, and that’s been a bold social move that has stirred up controversy and admiration, but it’s likely kept him from landing a job in the NFL right now.
For what it’s worth, Kelly, who coached the 49ers in 2016, didn’t feel that Kaepernick’s stance — which has made news far beyond the sports media scene — impacted anything in the locker room.
Here’s what Kelly said on Adam Schefter’s “Know them from Adam” podcast, as transcribed by All22 49ers:
“Kap was awesome. You know, at the beginning of the year, he made a stance in terms of what he believed was right. We recognized and supported his ability to do that. But he never brought that into the locker room.”
“You know, we had a meeting the day after the Green Bay game that he did it in the preseason,” Kelly said. “He explained to all the players his thought process and mindset of what he was doing. And there were some players that agreed with him and some players that didn’t agree with him. But after that point, we heard from the outside about what a distraction it is, except those people weren’t in our locker room and it never was a distraction. [Kaepernick] never turned it into a circus or whatever people think.”
Kaepernick’s stance has been well documented and well discussed, and one of the main talking points surrounding it and his potential NFL future has been about distraction. Some feel that because the NFL is a business, NFL owners have been avoiding Kaepernick despite what could be some viable needs at quarterback, or at least at backup quarterback. Kaepernick isn’t all that far removed from a Super Bowl run and at the very least, he brings a ton of experience to the table, which could be valuable as a backup to a younger quarterback. Kaep’s detractors would say he doesn’t have “it” anymore, or that the distraction is simply more than NFL owners and front offices are willing to deal with.
As far as Kelly is concerned, though, he never had an issue with the quarterback’s professionalism:
“He came to work every day, extremely diligent in terms of his preparation, in terms of his work ethic,” Kelly said. “I really enjoyed Kap. I’ve talked to Kap three or four times since. I think he’s a really good player and a really good person, and I really enjoyed coaching him.
Kaepernick may not have been a locker-room distraction in San Francisco, but every group of players is different, so it’s not as if Kelly’s statements will completely take away the risk a franchise would have to assess when evaluating Kaepernick’s value. There’s also fan backlash to consider, which was something that was very real in San Francisco.
At least from someone who likely knew Kaepernick very well, though, the distractions that come along with signing him would likely all come from the outside — and that’s something well worth considering if you’re an NFL general manager with a need on the quarterback depth chart.