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The debate on Kaepernick's future

It has been a rough season for Colin Kaepernick. Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports

The sign San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh posted near the team's locker room upon his hiring in 2011 applies nearly four years later.

"You are getting better or you are getting worse," the sign reads. "You never stay the same."

After getting much better right away under Harbaugh, the 49ers have gotten much worse lately. So has their franchise quarterback. Colin Kaepernick, six months removed from signing a contract extension, ranks 23rd in Total QBR this season, right behind Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mike Glennon. The previous two seasons, Kaepernick was third behind Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.

Kaepernick, 27, is approaching a career crossroads as the organization mulls a likely coaching change. How the 49ers proceed from here will influence whether Kaepernick again becomes a productive force or continues on his current downward trajectory, one that could turn him into another Robert Griffin III -- adrift after a promising start to his career.

Multiple factors complicate the analysis of Kaepernick. Some of the 49ers' most valuable players have missed much of the season or declined in production. Harbaugh's unsettled future and relationship with the front office has been a recurring storyline. The past three seasons, each capped with excruciating disappointment in NFC title games or the Super Bowl, have clearly taken a toll.

Theories outnumber hard facts, but here are five thoughts on Kaepernick's situation and the chances that he'll remain in a 49ers uniform in the future: