Jaguars coach Doug Marrone has had Bortles and Henne split reps with the first team this week in practice and will announce his decision on Thursday's starter sometime Wednesday afternoon or evening. He opened the competition after another lackluster performance by Bortles in the Jaguars' loss to Tampa Bay last Thursday.
Kaepernick is the best option available if the Jaguars were to look for help from the outside -- and possibly the best option, period. He's experienced, he has won at a high level and he could be signed relatively cheaply. But there is a risk in signing him that has nothing to do with what happens on the field.
Three reasons to sign Kaepernick
He's the only upgrade available: If the Jaguars look outside to upgrade the quarterback spot there is no one else they could sign that would be a potential upgrade. Kaepernick helped lead San Francisco to a Super Bowl and has a 28-30 record as a starter. Bortles and Henne are a combined 29-69. Team talent has a lot to do with that, but Kaepernick was able to win a few games on his own and that's not something the Jaguars duo has been able to do much. According to ProFootballReference.com, Kaepernick has engineered nine fourth-quarter comebacks while Henne and Bortles have combined for nine.
He's not a turnover machine: Bortles has turned the ball over the most times (63) of any player and thrown the second-most interceptions (51) during the past three seasons. He has played in 46 games during that span. Henne has 68 turnovers (63 interceptions) in 65 career games. Kaepernick has 45 total turnovers (30 interceptions) in 69 starts dating back to 2012. Turnovers are one of the biggest issues Tom Coughlin has had with Bortles. "There can be no way the ball is turned over to that extent, so I think he'd be the first one to say that he has a lot of work to do,” Coughlin said about Bortles in February.
He can be a dynamic playmaker: Kaepernick's ability to scramble and make plays with his feet would certainly be useful behind the Jaguars' suspect offensive line. Kaepernick has 17 runs of 20 or more yards in his career. Bortles has 13, but Kaepernick also has two runs of more than 50 yards (Bortles has none). He also would help the run game alongside Leonard Fournette, whom the Jaguars took with the fourth overall pick. Kaepernick ran for 468 yards last season in 12 games with the 49ers, which would have made him the Jaguars' leading rusher.
Three reasons not to sign Kaepernick
He's not going to elevate the team: Though Kaepernick does have talent, he's not a polished quarterback and won't make the Jaguars a nine- or 10-win team. Kaepernick helped San Francisco reach the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, but he was aided by a good ground game (Frank Gore rushed for 1,214 yards and eight TDs) and one of the NFL's better defenses (the 49ers ranked second in scoring defense and third in total defense). The Jaguars' offensive line is suspect and their pass rush and inability to force turnovers have been issues for years. Plus, there are less than three weeks until the season opener, so Kaepernick would not have enough time to absorb the system to be effective. Is Kaepernick better than what the Jaguars have? Maybe, but he's arguably not a top-20 quarterback and not good enough to take this team from five or six victories to potentially a division title.
Distraction: Kaepernick's decision last year to kneel during the national anthem as a way to raise awareness of social inequality and injustices angered many and has likely played a role in his still being unemployed. Kaepernick has said he will not kneel for the anthem again this season if he joins a team. But there is a large number of people who remain angry at him for what they believe is disrespect toward the flag, military and country. Jacksonville is a large Navy town -- NAS Jacksonville and NAS Mayport are located here -- and there undoubtedly would be a large segment of people angered by his signing. Media from across the country would flock to Jacksonville to interview Kaepernick and teammates and that would create a significant distraction inside the locker room. I can't imagine Coughlin being OK with that.
He's not an accurate passer: Kaepernick's career completion percentage is 59.8, which is only 1 percent better than Bortles' (58.8). His best season in terms of completion percentage was 2012 (62.4), when he started seven games and appeared in six others. In the only two seasons in which he started 16 games, he completed 58.4 and 60.5 percent of his passes.