Most NFL teams report back for training camp later next week, which means players and coaches are getting their last bits of vacation in before it all picks back up. Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was in Truckee this past weekend for the eighth annual Upshaw Memorial Golf Classic. 49ers beat writer Cam Inman was in town for the event and had a chance to chat with Rivera about the 49ers quarterback situation.
Rivera has plenty of experience with both Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert. Kaepernick’s last playoff win came against Rivera’s Panthers, and Gabbert was on the team’s radar when they eventually decided on Cam Newton with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. I wouldn’t expect him to bad-mouth the quarterbacks or the competition, but it is still worth at hearing what Rivera has to say.
Rivera thinks both quarterbacks fit what Chip Kelly is trying to do. A lot of people seem to think that’s the case, focusing on the athleticism aspect. Kaepernick’s athleticism is well known, and Gabbert brings a level of athleticism that is easily overlooked. Accuracy is going to be just as, if not more important, but Gabbert and Kaepernick do give Kelly a pair of options that are arguably more athletic than anybody Kelly has had. He had late career Michael Vick before an injury, but other than that, Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, and Nick Foles do not match the athleticism of either Kaepernick or Gabbert.
I think Gabbert ends up starting, but we don’t really know what Chip Kelly thinks of either quarterback. Public comments only hold so much value (right, Ron?). Whomever ends up in the position offers up more athleticism than Kelly has normally had, so it will be interesting to see what this means for how much more of the playbook is rolled out this fall.