San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly is not a fan of hypothetical questions. On Wednesday, Kelly was asked about the team’s quarterback situation, which appears somewhat in flux with Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert both vying for the starting job. Kaepernick has missed the first two preseason games with a shoulder injury, and a reporter asked Kelly about who he plans to start in Friday’s preseason game against Green Bay and if his initial comment that he wanted to see both quarterbacks play with the first-team offense before deciding on a starter still stood.
Kelly said they were going to evaluate the situation Friday. The reporter then followed up with “Hypothetically,” and Kelly launched into a rant against hypothetical questions:
“Well, if you’re not, then why’d you ask? This is my deal with hypotheticals, because everyone wants to use them to some degree. If we’re going to use hypotheticals, we should cancel the season, cause hypothetically we won the Super Bowl. Let’s go all out with the hypotheticals, let’s say we won the Super Bowl, so it’s over. And we did it without a quarterback in the hypothetical world that I live in. Wouldn’t that be cool? But it doesn’t work that way. We’re a real literal, black-and-white deal. We’re going to sit down when we find out exactly who’s available. I would hope that based on what he’s done so far, he’s going to be available. If he’s going to be available, he’s going to play.”
On the one hand, yes, hypothetical questions are sometimes overused by reporters in general and sports reporters in particular, and taking them to their extreme can produce absurdity, as Kelly tries to show with his example. On the other hand, there can be real value to specific “if…then” hypotheticals, and Kelly’s actually dealing in them at the end here (“If he’s going to be available, he’s going to play.”)
The hypothetical question here didn’t actually make it out, so we don’t know what it is, but context would suggest it might be about if the team would have their starting decision made if Kaepernick wasn’t able to play, and that’s a legitimate and valuable question. There’s a big difference between that and the 49ers hypothetically winning the Super Bowl without a quarterback. Kelly can like or dislike whatever types of questions he wants, but hypotheticals aren’t as silly as he tries to make them seem.