San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly announced on Saturday that quarterback Blaine Gabbert will start San Francisco’s season opener against the Los Angeles Rams next Monday night, according to The Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows. Colin Kaepernick will serve as the backup.
The decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as Kaepernick dealt with a dead arm during the early stages of the preseason. That held him out for a couple of weeks and was more than enough for Gabbert to assume the job.
Gabbert, a former top-10 pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, finished the 2015 season as San Francisco’s starter. He started the final eight games of the season, going 3-5 with 2,031 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Gabbert has a chance to revitalize his career under Kelly and his high-speed, spread offense. The former Philadelphia Eagles coach has gotten respectable seasons out of the likes of Nick Foles and Sam Bradford, which bodes well for Gabbert.
But the former Jaguars bust was exiled from Jacksonville for a reason. Gabbert went 5-22 as a starter in three seasons with the Jaguars and never threw for more than 12 touchdowns in a season.
San Francisco’s dearth of playmakers won’t make matters any easier. Torrey Smith might be the only reputable weapon in the passing game after Bruce Ellington went down for the season with a hamstring injury. The 49ers have tried to piece together a receiving corps by acquiring former Jets and Lions wideout Jeremy Kerley and by adding Rod Streater in a trade with Kansas City on Saturday afternoon.
The 49ers are also expected to keep Christian Ponder as its third-string quarterback, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.