Chip Kelly: Niners playing to win finale, sticking with Colin Kaepernick

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- With nothing left to play for in the 2016 season, Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak announced earlier this week that he would be sticking with Trevor Siemian as his starting quarterback but also noted that rookie Paxton Lynch would play in the season finale against the Oakland Raiders.

The Broncos were officially eliminated from the playoff chase last week and Kubiak clearly sees an opportunity to get a young quarterback such as Lynch some valuable repetitions.

Meanwhile, here in the Bay Area, the San Francisco 49ers have been out of the mix mathematically for about two months and practically for most of the season. Although injuries have allowed Niners coach Chip Kelly and his staff to get a long look at most of the players on the roster, he doesn't subscribe to the idea of playing young players just to play them.

"This isn’t just Christmas and we give out gifts," Kelly said. "I don’t think that’s fair to the guys that are here that have worked and done everything you said and just say, ‘Hey, you’re not going to play this week because this other guy that we know is not better than you, we’re just going to throw him out in a game and see what he can do.’ I don’t think that’s fair."

Kelly went on to point out that Kubiak isn't necessarily making wholesale changes, either. Instead, he's just planning to get Lynch some work. For the Niners, it's hard to argue that there are any players left on the roster that need some opportunities, with the possible exception of quarterback Christian Ponder.

The 49ers promoted Ponder to the No. 2 job a few weeks ago, but he has not taken a snap in a regular season game. Like the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster, Ponder could be a free agent after the season and it might make sense for the Niners to get a sense of where he fits in Kelly's system.

But Kelly reiterated this week that he's going to stick with Colin Kaepernick as his quarterback, and there's only one way that will change.

“No, we’re trying to go win the football game," Kelly said. "So Kap will play unless he gets banged up.”

With 18 players on injured reserve and two more who at least spent some time with that designation before moving on, the Niners have had 61 players play at least one snap in 2016. Fifty-four of those players have played at least 13 snaps, and 43 of them have played at least 99.

Beyond that, Kelly and his staff have also had a full season's worth of practices to get a closer look at what's in place.

"I think everybody has always tried to plan and see how these people fit in our things, but you also have to be cognizant of the fact that we watch these guys every day," Kelly said. "We make evaluations every day. We see them practice every day. You get an opportunity to see them every single day. So, to just say, ‘Hey, I know this kid’s been awful in practice, but let’s just chuck him out on the field and see what he can do.’ It just doesn’t work that way.”