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Mangini isn’t sure Kaepernick has regressed, or that he’d be blackballed

Eric Mangini discusses Colin Kaepernick's political stand, his future with 49ers and the Seahawks' potential without Marshawn Lynch.

At a time when the popular narrative regarding 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick starts with the notion that he has regressed a as a player and ends with the question of whether he’ll ever get another chance with another NFL team after refusing to stand for the national anthem, a coach who worked closely with Kaepernick in each of the last three years sees the situation differently.

Former Jets and Browns coach Eric Mangini, initially hired by the 49ers in June 2013 as an offensive consultant charged with helping the team figure out how defenses would try to stop Kaepernick, later served as tight ends coach and then as defensive coordinator with the team. And so Mangini knows Kaepernick as well as anyone, and Mangini has worked with Kaepernick from a variety of perspectives.

He joined Monday’s PFT Live to share his thoughts on Kaepernick’s current situation, and the message was clear: Mangini isn’t ready to say Kaepernick has regressed.

“I really like Colin and I liked being able to spend time with Colin on the offensive side,” Mangini said. “I don’t know if that evaluation [that he has regressed] is completely fair. He was in different systems. The system we had under Jim Harbaugh was different than Jim Tomsula, and now he’s under a different system again. That’s not always the easiest thing for a guy to do is to transition year in and year out to a different system. I’d like to see what he can do in this system before we say he’s regressed. He’s had the one preseason game, gave him some time, gave him some reps. I think there’s a lot of things that he does well and that’ll fit into Chip [Kelly’s] system really well. We’ve only got a very limited look at it though.”

So would Mangini pursue Kaepernick if Mangini were currently coaching a team and needed a quarterback?

“You know, Colin has a unique skill set,” Mangini said. “It would depend on what offense I was running because I would want him to compliment whoever my quarterback was. I don’t know if you can lump it in like that; it would just depend on I think the system. I think in this system [with the 49ers] I think he’s a good fit and I would like to see what he can do and I like Blaine Gabbert a lot. But I’d like to see what he can do is this system because it may be something that ends up being a really smart decision to keep him and to give him the opportunity. With how many reps did he get the other night, 15, 20, whatever it was, it’s hard to I think universally say, ‘Hey this isn’t working at this point.’”

With Kaepernick, a separate question has emerged. Would Kaepernick’s political views and gesture make Kaepernick undesirable?

“I think that anytime you have distractions and I keep bringing this up, Mike, and I know you and I have talked about before, it’s an issue,” Mangini said. “It’s something that you have to consider. When you look at a guy like Tim Tebow and the things that he brought to a team and he had a unique skill set but there were a lot of other things that surrounded him. You have to evaluate it from the perspective of, ‘Does he add enough value to offset some of these other things that are going to come in now that he’s made the decisions that he’s made?’ and you don’t make it in a vacuum. You’ve got to look at the skill set, you’ve got to look at the contribution, you’ve got to look at the opportunity that you have and that he has to make your team better but then you’ve got to weigh that against what else comes with that player and are you willing to deal with those distractions and how much do you think they’re going to affect the group as a whole and the progress of the team as a whole. I don’t know if he’ll be universally blackballed, though.”

In the NFL, where the supply of quarterbacks never matches the demand, it’s hard to imagine a team that: (1) has a need at the position; and (2) has seen on a first-hand basis the best of what Kaepernick can do automatically scratching him off the list simply because of his position on the national anthem.