It’s a battle of the team looking to improve their playoff position against the team looking to improve their draft position. That’s not to say that the San Francisco 49ers will actually want to lose (not like a team should have to, but they proved that with their win against the LA Rams last week) but that’s the reality: a loss would help the 49ers, just like a win could help the Seattle Seahawks.
A loss may also be the final straw for owner Jed York to fire general manager Trent Baalke, head coach Chip Kelly, and essentially quarterback Colin Kaepernick. (It’s interesting that we don’t call it “firing” players when they get released, that’s basically what it is.) It could mean the team is on their fourth head coach in four years in 2017, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. The Seahawks could put the final nail in the coffin for many of these people, and there’s no doubt that some people in San Francisco absolutely have to be replaced, but a win for the Niners could give them morale unlike anything they’ve felt in a couple years.
To get more insight, I sent a couple Qs to David Fucillo of Niners Nation. He sent me back a couple As that corresponded to those Qs.
Q: Do you think this is Chip Kelly's last game with the 49ers? Were you expecting this to be a down season in which 2-14 or 3-13 was acceptable?
A: This is a tough in light of the situation with general manager Trent Baalke. There is a very good chance the 49ers fire Baalke. If they promote Tom Gamble from within, it could open the door for Kelly to return. If they want to hire an outside GM, odds seem decent that Kelly is fired so the GM can hire his own coach. Until we know the answer at GM, it's hard to say.
A down year was expected by most. I don't think 2-14 or 3-13 is ever "acceptable," but whether or not they should fire Kelly because of that? I think he has his flaws, but it is hard to really assess a coach with this many questions up and down the roster. In a perfect world, I think the best bet is blowing everything up, firing both the GM and coach and just starting from scratch. I think Kelly could work in Santa Clara, but the franchise has developed such an awful atmosphere, I think changing everything over is what they should be doing. Patch-work changes won't help this gusher. I really would prefer they just blow it all up and start over. And ideally that includes someone in charge of football operations keeping Jed York to the business side.
Q: My evaluation of Colin Kaepernick would be that he's playing about as good as he did when the 49ers loved him and he helped them get to a Super Bowl. I just think he was a little overrated back then and maybe he's a little underrated right now. Is that fair to say? Do you have any fears that he'll be released and turn out to be good somewhere else while San Francisco begins the dreaded QB search once again?
A: I imagine we could discuss Colin Kaepernick for days, or even weeks. It's been a ridiculous roller-coaster. I'd probably agree with you to a certain extent. He's a quarterback that can be incredibly dangerous for opposing teams, but for regular returns, he needs to be surrounded with better talent. With a questionable offensive line, and little in the way of skill positions around him other than Carlos Hyde, I think he's done some decent work.
It shows that he is not as bad as last year, but we have seen enough to understand that he still has numerous issues. The lack of touch, the zeroing in on one target, the question marks in his pocket presence. It seems like most games we see some positives in each of those areas, but there is no consistency in that regard. People want black and white with him, but it's always shades of gray. And I think his ability to make some huge plays, whether it be breaking off a ridiculous run or showing off his cannon of an arm, is what keeps drawing people back in. You see some quarterbacks that are not awful, but not good, and people get bored of them quickly. He has that big play ability that makes fans think, well, maybe he can finally put it all together.
I am not overly concerned about the team releasing him and him turning out to be good elsewhere. As you said, I think we kinda know what he is at this point. I do think he is a quarterback who can be a valuable cog on a good team, but he's not a guy who will carry a bad team to anything more than a bad record. I think the football operations folks have treated him poorly at times, but the organizational support for him during this protest has been nice to see. I think he needs a fresh start somewhere else, and the 49ers just need to start over. Like I said, they need to blow this thing up, and not just front office and coaches.