ASHBURN, Va. --- For a while, the sentiment was that Robert Griffin III would be a good fit with the Philadelphia Eagles. Then Chip Kelly was fired so it was changed to, “Anywhere Kelly goes.” But now that Kelly has landed in San Francisco, is that still the case?
Griffin will be on the open market at some point this offseason, and, while there’s speculation on where he’ll end up, one of the places that was intriguing to some involved Kelly.
There are, of course, some big questions and possible stumbling blocks to any sort of pairing of Griffin and Kelly.
The Niners already have a starting quarterback under contract in Colin Kaepernick and a backup in Blaine Gabbert. Kelly reportedly used to watch a lot of Nevada’s offense on film when Kaepernick was the quarterback, so perhaps he views him as a solid fit for his offense and would like to keep him around. Kaepernick's cap hit next season is $16.8 million, but if he's released the 49ers would save $14.3 million. One report, from the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, suggested Kelly wanted to try to land Kaepernick no matter where he ended up.
They also have Gabbert signed through next season at a $2.25 million cap hit. If they released him, they’d save $2 million. And Kelly’s quarterback in Philadelphia last season, Sam Bradford, will be a free agent.
Something to keep in mind when it comes to Griffin: Nobody was projecting him to go somewhere to start. So, if he went, say, to the Niners, it would make sense for him even if it’s behind Kaepernick. As one coach said earlier this week, some teams might be reluctant to sign Griffin if they feel they’ll have to change their offense too much to suit him. San Francisco would not need to do so.
“If he’s going to be your guy, you have to be willing to do the things he does well,” one coach said. “He can push the ball down the field, and he can buy time with his legs.”
So, too, can Kaepernick. And the reason several people suggested Kelly as a better fit for Griffin stemmed from a couple of things. Kelly used some of the same concepts Griffin ran at Baylor, and he still likes using the zone read (which Griffin did not favor in Washington). There are more half-field reads, which Washington used in Griffin’s rookie year of 2012.
“[Kelly’s offense] simplifies everything,” one Redskins player said. “It’s just easy and really straightforward.”
But it’s uncertain whether Griffin is a viable option in San Francisco even as a backup. Although he can run, he also has suffered two leg injuries and at least one concussion in the NFL. That’s why San Francisco will be like a lot of places for Griffin: intriguing, but a place that comes with many questions.