Colin Kaepernick 'Electrified' 49ers' Offense in 2016, Says Jeremy Kerley

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2020

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick celebrates after their win against the Los Angeles Rams during an NFL football game Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Los Angeles. The San Francisco 49ers won 22-21. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jeremy Kerley said that quarterback Colin Kaepernick wasn't to blame for the Niners' struggles en route to a 2-14 record in 2016.

Blaine Gabbert opened the season as the team's starter, but a 1-4 start led head coach Chip Kelly to hand the offense back to Kaepernick. Although the Niners' fortunes didn't change, Kerley told Matt Barrows of The Athletic the signal-caller changed the feel of the offense.

"We were kind of missing (something) throughout the season, but when he came on, it's like he kind of electrified the offense and got us going and stuff," he said in an interview published Monday. "It was unfortunate we couldn't get more than one win out of it. But like I said, personally, my funnest time playing football was 2016."

Kerley was mostly known for his special-teams prowess during an eight-year career that included stops with the 49ers, New York Jets, Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills.

He finished the 2016 campaign as San Francisco's leading receiver, however, tallying 64 catches for 667 yards and three touchdowns. It spotlighted the lack of high-end targets at Kaepernick's disposal during his most recent season in the NFL.

The Niners lost four wide receivers (Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington and Eric Rogers) and two tight ends (Vance McDonald and Blake Bell) to injured reserve during the year.

Michael Wilhoite, a San Francisco linebacker in 2016 and a current New Orleans Saints assistant coach, told Barrows that information is often lost in the discussion of Kaepernick's performance four years ago.

"This is what I tell people about Kap that year: Kap was playing with scout-team players. He wasn't playing with starters," he said. "All the starters had either been hurt by the end of the year or weren't trying to play by the end of the year because of the record. And so he was out there playing with dudes who would normally be on the scout team or practice squad."

Despite the lackluster weapons, Kaepernick compiled solid numbers with a 90.7 passer rating and 468 rushing yards across 12 appearances.

Kaepernick started the movement to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality during the preseason in 2016.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in August 2016. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

During his extended NFL hiatus, which has led him to remain on the free-agent market since March 2017, he filed a collusion lawsuit against the league's owners, which was settled out of court in February 2019.

There have been renewed calls for a team to sign Kaepernick as the same issues he protested against four years ago are once again in the spotlight amid nationwide protests after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed while in Minneapolis Police custody in May.

Last week, Michael Silver of the NFL Network reported there's "legitimate interest from at least a couple of teams."

Kaepernick helped lead the Niners to Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, though they suffered a 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. His 88.9 career passer rating would rank 18th among active quarterbacks if signed before the 2020 season.