If Blaine Gabbert’s predictable demise is unfolding in San Francisco, mum is the word from the head coach. While Chip Kelly would not go so far as to name Colin Kaepernick the starting quarterback for the 49ers against the Bills this Sunday, he wouldn’t name Gabbert either.
Instead, as Mike Maiocco for CSN Bay Area reports, Kelly didn’t name a starter at all.
About the only concrete information Kelly was willing to provide is Kaepernick’s massive contract has no bearing on whether he will play or not. Of course, that much should probably be obvious given the fact he hasn’t replaced Gabbert already.
The likelihood that Gabbert’s hold on the job is slipping shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who has watched him play. The sixth-year veteran surprised some people last season with career highs in completion percentage (63.1 percent), yards per attempt (7.2) and passer rating (86.2) — pedestrian, but respectable — while leading the 49ers to a 3-5 record in eight starts.
Gabbert has regressed in Kelly’s offense though. San Francisco is 1-4, he’s throwing interceptions at the highest rate of his career with six already and is doing far too much running around.
If the 49ers are going to ask their quarterback to run as much as Gabbert has, his 39 attempts this season nearly matching his career high already, it behooves Kelly to go with Kaepernick. He may not be a much more efficient passer — although a 69.6 rating is a low bar to clear — but at least Kaepernick has the athleticism to be an effective runner.
Kaepernick missed most of the offseason work due to his recovery from shoulder surgery and was behind in learning the offense, so it makes sense why Kelly wouldn’t want to throw him out there in September. This is as caught up as the 28-year-old is going to get though, and if he’s not ready to play now, he never will be.
More to the point, the 49ers need to try something different. It’s sounding like Kelly might against the Bills, although that is a tough game to try to ease Kaepernick back in should that be what the head coach decides.