The 49ers may have moved out of the gusty confines of Candlestick Park, but the winds of change may soon be sweeping through Santa Clara.
After another poor outing by quarterback Blaine Gabbert, in which the struggling veteran threw two interceptions while completing just 58 percent of his passing attempts on Thursday, head coach Chip Kelly’s postgame demeanor indicated that he may be mulling over a change at the quarterback position.
Prior to Thursday, Kelly had been quick to stomp out any notion of benching current starter Gabbert in favor of either Colin Kaepernick or Christian Ponder. But Kelly’s tune was different — albeit still vague — when asked about the quarterback position:
“We’re going to look at everything. We have a couple days off here in terms of getting ready for Buffalo, and then we’ll asses the film and move from there.”
Kelly wouldn’t offer any additional insight during his media session on Friday, stating that no decision has been made yet regarding who will start the team’s next outing in Buffalo on Sunday. But he again left the door open for potential change:
“I’m not naming any starters for Buffalo. Just don’t rule anything out. And I guarantee the headline is I didn’t name this guy the starter. I didn’t name any starters for the Buffalo game. That’s what I’m staying.”
This is typical ambiguous coach speak, but his reserved comments can still be seen as the first step in a new direction for the struggling 49ers.
Through his first four games, Gabbert has shown little to prove that he is the answer for the 49ers moving forward. Missed receivers, poor reads and inefficient short passes on third down have done little to form an effective offense for San Francisco.
Gabbert’s 69.6 quarterback ranking on the season is currently 39th in the NFL, and his 58 percent season-long completion percentage ranks near the bottom of the list as well.
It’s fair to say that we’ve seen both Gabbert’s floor and ceiling since he took over the 49ers’ offense last year. His current ceiling might be able to scrape out wins against the bottom tier teams in the NFL, and his floor is… Well you’ve been seeing it since the second game of the season, and its lead to a four-game losing streak.
Despite his clear fascination with the quarterback’s ability in his offense, Kelly’s claimed that his reluctance to put Kaepernick under center has been due to his reduced physical conditioning following a lengthy rehab process.
But if Kelly is keen to make a switch away from Gabbert, it looks like Kaepernick may be coming into form at just the right time. Kelly has stated that he’d like to see Kaepernick around his previous 225 pounds before giving him consideration. On Friday, Kelly stated the mobile quarterback is at 215.
The extra ten pounds of mass to reach Kelly’s target weight is still a significant amount, but with Gabbert continuing to struggle to move the ball, I doubt that Kelly is ready to keep Kaepernick off the field over it anymore.
Throw in the fact that the 49ers and Kaepernick are working on a restructured contract to remove injury compensation for the 2017 season, and all signs point to him taking the field within the next few weeks.
Who knows whether Kaepernick will outplay Gabbert. But the promise of a new episode is always more exciting than watching the same old reruns.