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The Chargers Should Have Signed Colin Kaepernick, Not Kellen Clemens

Freed From His Niners Contract, Should John Spanos, Tom Telesco and Co. Have Made A Move For Kap?

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NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll be honest, I probably wouldn’t have written this if not for the weird rumor going around that the Chargers were interested in former Jets (now Giants) quarterback, Geno Smith. Like, if the Chargers had just made their boring, complacent move of re-signing backup quarterback (and the equivalent of watching paint dry as it misses a wide open target on an in-route by overthrowing the ball a mile overhead) Kellen Clemens, like the front office brain trust did do at the start of free agency, I’d let sleeping dogs lie and just accept the bland, groan-inducing “safety” of the move.

After all, the terms of Clemens’ deal aren’t particularly atrocious given the other kinds of contracts being handed out to quarterbacks this offseason. Am I glad that we’re not paying a backup quarterback $11M like the Eagles will pay Nick Foles? You bet. Am I particularly happy that Kellen Clemens is the dude we’re paying whatsoever?...

Eh... Not really.

But given the tire fire that is the Chargers roster in numerous spots, “why are we paying the equivalent of a quarterback that’s equally dull as dishwater as how he makes all of our young prospect/roster bubble pass catchers borderline impossible to fairly assess because of his inability to f@*$#(ing place the ball when he throws it, even if it’s just backup money?” has been pretty low on my list of grievances.

And yeah, the Geno Smith rumor could be complete fiction. We’ve seen some pretty heady quarterback-related rumors completely fizzle out in the past before. However, you also have Tom Telesco putting out the notion that the team wouldn’t rule out taking a quarterback at pick #7 this year. So, yeah, you could say the backup QB situation has some legs.


That being said, is TT trying to leverage quarterback-needy teams into possibly loading up picks in a bid to move up to pick #7? Possibly. It’s pretty likely. But consider how some pundits have contested that the crop of rookie quarterbacks in this upcoming draft might not necessarily be ready to take the leap and elevate their respective teams’ chances of ameliorating and competing in short order. Or, in short: Teams aren’t convinced “their guy” is there for them this draft.

I mean, it could explain how Mike f#*$(@)ing Glennon was signed to a $45M contract. Jesus christ.

So, yeah, circling back to that “Geno Smith thing”...

Why not Kaep?


Look, if the idea is the following:

  1. The Chargers need a backup quarterback with experience
  2. The Chargers need a backup quarterback that can be relied upon to enter games and perform
  3. The Chargers need a backup quarterback who can serve as an effective leader of the scout team on offense in practice
  4. The Chargers need a backup quarterback who can competently operate the offense in preseason such that the bubble players can be accurately assessed

Then I’d be hard pressed to encounter an argument where Kellen Clemens is the answer to all 4 points (much less any point aside from the first one).

Concerning these points:

Colin Kaepernick has started 58 of 69 games played over 6 seasons. Kellen Clemens has started 21 of 56 games played over 11 seasons. Colin Kaepernick is the more experienced quarterback both in terms of games started and total games played. Furthermore, Kaep has started and played in 6 total playoff games, while Kellen Clemens has sat on the bench for 3 of them. Playoff experience matters, especially for a team that’s counting on being to compete as soon as possible (and backup quarterback being an important footnote with regards to this, as that’s how Billy Volek became a folk hero for Chargers fans).

In terms of being able to count on said player to come in and perform in a pinch? Colin Kaepernick, the erstwhile backup for the Niners, came off the bench to start 12 games for the team that had benched him at the start of the season. Kellen Clemens appeared in the game against Jacksonville in week 2 to take a knee and last threw a pass in a competitive game of NFL football was week 3 of the 2015 NFL season.

Now, I can’t speak to point three. Perhaps Kellen Clemens is the greatest scout quarterback on earth. It could be possible that he’s mastered that skill.

But good grief. I could never co-sign “Kellen Clemens is the guy I want to see in preseason to help us figure out if (the next) Tyrell Williams is the dude” or “Kellen Clemens has enough pocket presence that he’ll help us identify who on the bubble we should retain among our offensive line camp bodies”.

Hell no.

But doesn’t Kaep suck?

Well, in an argument familiar to Chargers fans who were around for the nadir of Rivers’ numbers during the 2011-2012 twilight of Norv Turner’s tenure, most of what lead to Colin Kaepernick’s inability to drag the hopelessly bad Niners team out of the dredges of the NFC has more to do with the starting cast surrounding Kaepernick than necessarily Kaep himself.

*2nd best rate among quarterbacks Cian charted

Furthermore, there’s a compelling argument to be made that Kaep’s 2016 hinted at a possible resurgence as a quarterback even if it didn’t necessarily translate into wins for the Niners last season. Additionally, if we’re looking at Kellen Clemens vs. Colin Kaepernick, Clemens’ best full season completion percentage (2013, 58.7%) is only 0.3% better than Kaepernick’s worst full season completion percentage (2013, 58.4%). Kaepernick is averaging a career completion percentage of 59% whereas Clemens’ career completion percentage average sits at 54%.

For reference, Mike Glennon (he of the $45M contract) has a career completion percentage of 59% as well. I’m not saying Kaepernick is the messiah, but I think the point I’m making about the Chargers backup quarterback situation should be readily apparent at this point.

And, well, if all that “word readin’” isn’t compelling enough...

Again, any of this is moot if: a) the rumors of the Chargers being interested in Geno Smith (or any other free agent quarterback) as a backup QB are patently false, b) Colin Kaepernick is holding out for a chance to earn a starting quarterback gig for an NFL team (something I would NOT advocate for the Chargers as long as Philip Rivers is still around and capable).

But given what is asked of backup quarterbacks, the availability of talented quarterbacks in the NFL (let’s be honest, there are never 32 quality starter-level QBs in the NFL) and the possibilities that 29-year-old Colin Kaepernick possesses and, frankly, it’s pretty clear the Chargers should have let Kellen Clemens walk in free agency and replaced him with the 29-year-old ex-Niner. Especially if the team is considering a contingency plan to buoy the organization’s postseason hopes in the (hopefully) unlikely case of a significant injury to Philip Rivers.

Kellen Clemens sure as hell isn’t the guy when it comes to steering a team into the playoffs. Colin Kaepernick on the other hand? There’s at least something there.

What about the knee-...



Completely irrelevant. Any more questions?

Not really

Cool. With that being said, let’s debate below: Should the Chargers have tested the free agent market before re-signing Kellen Clemens? Given the duties of the backup quarterback when it comes to their role in helping assess bubble talent during the preseason, should the Chargers place more importance on having a quarterback that isn’t borderline terribly inaccurate like Clemens is? What other free agent quarterbacks do you think the Chargers should have considered?

Let’s debate!