Why Colin Kaepernick Never Returned to the 49ers

It has been nearly four years since Colin Kaepernick last played in the NFL. Kaepernick’s tenure with the San Francisco 49ers came to a rough close that has seen him still looking on the outside in for another chance to play in the league. It also provided an opportunity for a closer look as to why the 49ers elected to move in another direction from the quarterback that helped guide them to a Super Bowl berth.

Colin Kaepnerick’s tenure with 49ers

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Colin Kaepernick was selected with the 36th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft by the 49ers that made him a potential future piece of the puzzle.

San Francisco was fully committed to Alex Smith, who finally found his way under then-head coach Jim Harbaugh, helping the franchise become a powerhouse. However, things all changed in his second campaign as he took over the reins as the starter after Smith suffered a concussion, which led him to retain that job throughout the rest of his tenure.

Kaepernick helped guide the 49ers to a Super Bowl berth in that first year as the starter, putting them just a few yards away from winning the franchise’s sixth championship. San Francisco followed that with a 12-4 campaign in the first full season with the Nevada product but fell short in the NFC title game.

Things fell off the track a bit that saw the 49ers miss the playoffs in each of the next two seasons, which included Harbaugh being let go after the 2014 campaign. Kaepernick played in just nine games in 2015 due to a shoulder injury and had three surgeries that offseason. He was limited to 12 games, where he made 11 starts holding a 1-11 record in the 2016 season.

Why the 49ers didn’t bring back Colin Kaepernick

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The 2016 season was a tough campaign for the Colin Kaepernick for many reasons that saw his status with the team dramatically changed. Beyond the team’s struggles, Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem to bring attention toward social injustice had caused plenty of friction.

Following the season, Kaepernick elected to opt-out of his restructured deal that gave him the option to void the remainder of his contract. However, it was much more than that as the 49ers were heading into another direction with first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan wanting to go with a different approach at quarterback like he had with the Atlanta Falcons. (H/T CBS Sports)

“Yes, and we had that conversation with him. So I don’t want to characterize it as he made a decision to leave here. We both sat down and under that current construct of his deal, it was a big number,” Lynch said. “Kyle [Shanahan] had a vision for what he wanted to do, and one thing I think Kyle was very clear and I think Colin appreciated, is that Kyle has an idea of how he’d play with Colin Kaepernick. But he preferred to run the exact offense that he ran in Atlanta last year that was record-breaking in this league. And if you change it for the quarterback, you change it for everybody on that offense. So he had a great discussion that I think gave Colin clarity, so we moved on.

Kaepernick’s playing style wasn’t conducive to what Shanahan wanted from the quarterback position. He didn’t want to lean on running the read-option but instead wanted to go with the offensive game plan he had with the Falcons that saw Matt Ryan put forth a career-best campaign.

Kaepernick is a different mold of quarterback that didn’t fit into what Shanahan wanted to do.

Will Colin Kaepernick get another NFL shot?

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Since then, Colin Kaepernick has been out of the NFL for nearly the last four years despite still having a strong desire to play.

There has been a recent surge toward getting Kaepernick another shot to return to the league, especially with the social issues he was pushing to bring attention to becoming the prominent problem in the United States. It has seen many other players become vocal about the situation and led to commissioner Roger Goodell to voice that a team should sign the 32-year-old.

Ultimately, only time will prove if he will get that chance to resume his NFL career.