San Francisco 49ers: Kaepernick Situation Kicks Off Soap Opera Season

Oct 4, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) reacts after being hit on a 49ers running play against the Green Bay Packers in the third quarter at Levi
Oct 4, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) reacts after being hit on a 49ers running play against the Green Bay Packers in the third quarter at Levi /

The San Francisco 49ers, fresh off one of the most drama filled seasons in franchise history appear to be gearing up for another possible soap opera to kick off the 2016 season.

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Over the last couple of seasons, the San Francisco 49ers have been an absolute circus sideshow. Under the – ahem – leadership of Jed York and Trent Baalke, the 49ers have gone from being one of the league’s most successful and storied franchises to one of the league’s biggest and most dramatic soap operas. And with the 2016 offseason getting underway, it’s not looking like the team is going to be throttling back on the drama any time soon.

After three incredibly successful seasons with Jim Harbaugh roaming the sidelines, York and Baalke apparently couldn’t bear the thought of the head coach getting the credit while they got none. The rift between the front office and Harbaugh was a constant distraction for the team throughout the 2014 season and may have helped contribute to the team slipping back to 8-8 after going to three consecutive trips to the NFC Championship games.

After all of the drama and discord, it surprised nobody when Harbaugh and the 49ers announced their “mutual decision” to part ways seemingly minutes after their season ending win over the Arizona Cardinals.

The 2015 season started off with the team embroiled in even more drama. From the hiring of a head coach in Jim Tomsula, who was clearly nothing more than a yes man for York and Baalke, to the rash of retirements – some expected, others unexpected – to the poor play on the field, the 49ers were doomed from the start of the season. It came as little surprise to anybody that the team finished the season 5-11.

And through it all, the biggest single source of drama and consternation was the play of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. For a time, Kaepernick seemed like an elite level quarterback and performed like he was going to be San Francisco’s franchise quarterback for some time to come. He baffled defenses with his ability to run as well as pass and make plays for his team. For a time, he was the face of the franchise with many believing he’d have the team in contention for some time to come.

Yeah, about that.

2015 was an unmitigated disaster for the 49ers as a franchise, but for Kaepernick in particulare. After coming within a hair’s breadth of winning a Super Bowl, and a second hair’s breadth of making a second trip to the Super Bowl, the wheels fell completely off of Kaepernick’s wagon. Despite an offseason in which he worked with former league MVP Kurt Warner, Kaepernick was a train wreck from the word go.

In eight starts in 2015, Kaepernick threw for 1,615 yards on 59 percent passing, throwing six touchdowns against five interceptions, and finishing the season with a QB rating of 78.5. Kaepernick performed so poorly, he was benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert – which, given the fact that it’s Blaine Gabbert, is pretty bad any way you slice it.

Kaepernick’s future was completely in doubt. Okay, it wasn’t really in doubt – most expected that he’d be released before his $12 million dollar salary became fully guaranteed on April 1. However, at the NFL Scouting Combine going on in Indianapolis, Baalke shocked everybody when he spoke to the media and said that Kaepernick was very much in San Francisco’s plans and would remain on the team’s roster when the April 1 deadline passed. When addressing the question of whether Kaepernick would remain with the team or not, Baalke went on to say:

"“Yeah. I don’t know where all the information is coming out, who it’s coming from, because it’s not coming from myself or anyone else in the organization. The number one focus is on getting him healthy. And Chip’s excited to work with him just as he’s excited to work with all these guys. The last time we talked to Colin. Colin was excited.”"

New HC Chip Kelly, showing what a good soldier he is, echoed the front office talking points about Kaepernick’s status with the team never being in question.

"“I don’t know what the narrative is that, ‘Is he on the team? Is he not on the team? It’s never been a question. I’m excited to work with Colin. I’ve never thought that, ‘Hey, I’m going to go to San Francisco and he’s not going to be there.’ I don’t know why everybody else looks at it that way, either. …Kap’s really good.”"

Apparently, somebody misunderstood something somewhere along the line though. Kaepernick – or at least, Kaepernick’s agents – were certainly excited as Baalke noted. But what they were excited about was getting Kaepernick out of San Francisco and into another team’s jersey.

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After the initial reports about Kaepernick wanting to go to the Jets surfaced – reports the Jets quickly squashed by saying they had no interest – the idea that the embattled quarterback might want out of San Francisco began to grow some legs. Suddenly, it wasn’t just the team weighing whether or not they wanted to retain Kaepernick, Kaepernick was said to be weighing whether he wanted to remain with the team or not.

With no news about that coming out though, that chatter seemed to die down a bit. Until today, anyway.

In speaking with the media, Kaepernick’s agents informed the gathered reporters that they’d asked the 49ers for permission to seek a trade, which would get their client out of the Bay Area. Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk:

"“Multiple reports have emerged, both from NFL Media and ESPN, that Kaepernick’s agents have asked for permission to seek a trade. The reports are most likely (if not undoubtedly) coming from Kaepernick’s agents. The 49ers have not yet responded to a request for comment from PFT, and it’s unclear whether either NFL Media or ESPN requested comment from the 49ers.”"

It’s possible that Baalke and Kelly, in seeking to revive a trade market for their embattled quarterback were striking a note of reconciliation and belief in the former face of the franchise. Or perhaps since we all know what sort of offense Kelly likes to run, they genuinely thought that Kaepernick was the right man to run it for them and genuinely wanted to bring him back for another year.

Related Story: Kelly Hiring Shows York And Baalke Learned Nothing

It seems that Kaepernick is over it all and wants off the good ship San Francisco though. Perhaps he’s resentful of the way his struggles were handled last season. Perhaps he’s resentful of the fact that he’s going to have to have a serious competition for playing time with Blaine Gabbert. Or perhaps he simply believes that a change of scenery will help him revive his career and will allow him to once again be the quarterback that led his team to one Super Bowl and very nearly to a second.

Whatever the case may be, San Francisco once again finds itself embroiled in a whole big pile of drama as the offseason really begins getting underway. But then, having dealt with copious amounts of drama and turmoil over the last couple of seasons, maybe the team is getting used to it.

Next: Kaepernick's Return Makes Draft Plans Clear

It’s unfortunate though, that once again, the drama off the field is going to take attention away from football related matters on the field. But then, maybe that’s getting to be old hat for the organization.