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Hue Jackson, Bill O’Brien weigh in on free agent QB Colin Kaepernick

At the AFC coaches’ breakfast I asked both coaches about the former 49ers quarterback.

At the NFL annual meeting, the coaches’ breakfasts allow media to mill about the room and talk to all of the head coaches in attendance. Today was for the AFC head coaches. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was the only one absent, because he was attending Florida’s pro day. (We all know he doesn’t have an affinity for these events anyways.)

Two teams in the AFC that have questions at the quarterback position are the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans. The Browns have Brock Osweiler on their roster for now, along with Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, and Pat Devlin. The Texans have Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden, having traded Osweiler to Cleveland. Both coaches weighed in on former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien mentioned repeatedly that he was excited to have the guys who are on the roster, but when asked specifically if he has evaluated Kaepernick he replied:

I’ve evaluated a lot of quarterbacks. With Kap, I think he’s a good football player, got a strong arm, he can run ... so we’ve looked at a lot of guys. We’ve looked at a lot of guys. Right now, like I said earlier, we’re really excited about the guys we have coming back, Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden, very excited about those guys. That’s kind of where we are right now.

Browns head coach Hue Jackson, on the other hand, said he has not “done homework” on Kaepernick in a while because he hasn’t needed to. When asked if he questioned if he was curious if Kaepernick can still play:

I wasn’t curious that way. I know Colin Kaepernick can play but at the time there were some other guys that we were interested in and that’s kind of where we are right now. I’m sure he’ll come up again if the other things we’re chasing don’t work out. It’s not that I don’t like him. It’s just where we are and the decisions we are trying to make as far as the guys we are interested in.

Would either coach be interested in drafting a quarterback, maybe. Both coaches mentioned that a team cannot be in a rush to put quarterbacks on the roster. It’s necessary to look ahead to future drafts because the guy you want might not be available yet.

Both coaches also mentioned that the prevalence of the spread offense in college makes evaluation of quarterbacks more difficult. Quarterbacks in a spread offense are not required to be under center or required to read defenses, and are getting plays off of cards on the sidelines or hand signals as opposed to making the call on the field “like an coach.”

Although both coaches said they can’t base their decision on a player on coming from the spread offense alone, it does make them delve deeper into how the player works. Will he work harder to grasp the system? Is he smart enough to transition? Jackson elaborated:

We go the extra mile with these guys, we really do. We spend a lot of time with them and there are a lot specific things that we ask them to do. If you ask the quarterbacks they will tell you it’s probably different than any other place that they’ve had to deal with thus far.

Some guys can handle it. Some guys can handle it early and some guys can’t and I think those are the guys that we have to find out. Some guys are able to process football but can’t play as well. Some guys play as well but can't process football. Somewhere in between is the right fit.