Posted on October 11, 2016, by Travis Pulver
It has finally happened. Some San Francisco 49ers fans and many in the media have been calling for the move for some time, but Chip Kelly resisted–until now. After weeks of lackluster play from Blaine Gabbert, Chip Kelly has decided he’s seen enough.
Gabbert is out, and Colin Kaepernick is in.
The move is not necessarily a vote of confidence in Kaepernick, but more of a vote of dissatisfaction in Gabbert. His best game of the season wasn’t exactly a great one (against the Rams; 22-35 for 170 yards and a touchdown along with 43 yards rushing). He’s thrown more interceptions than touchdowns (5; 6) and the only qualifying starter that he has a higher rating than is Ryan Fitzpatrick.
That’s not okay.
Tack on the fact that the 49ers are 1-4 and their offense ranks 31st in yards per game (beating out the Los Angeles Rams by seven yards; 291.4 to 284.2) and last in yards per play (4.5), and there is one thing that is clear.
Something has to change.
The move is likely going to anger the many who are still angry over Kaepernick’s national anthem protest, but Chip Kelly has made one thing clear: he will do what is best for the football team. Protests and contracts are not his problems or a factor into his decision making. It’s all about playing better football.
Comments Kelly made when talking about the move shine an interesting light on why it is being done:
“We were very analytical and sat down as a staff and watched the tape, went over everything,” Kelly said. “We had a couple days to kind of digest where we are, and I think offensively we need to be better and we just need to make a move. And it’s really not, it’s not Blaine’s fault. I think it’s just as a group offensively we need to be better in a lot of ways so we’re going to see what we can do and make a move here. It’s really one of the only maneuvers we can make based on our depth.”
It sounds more like the 49ers decided they had to do something and that this was the only thing they could do. It has nothing to do with confidence in Kaepernick or belief that he can be the fire that sparks the offense. Just the fact it is easier to change out the quarterback than it is the offensive line, running backs, and wide receivers.
But he must be better than Gabbert, right? He can’t possibly be worse—can he?
That makes it sound as if Kaepernick might not be ready to play. He may want to (every player wants to) but physically he is not where he needs to be—just like Chip Kelly has been saying.
“He physically is not where he was pre-injury,” Kelly said. “Before that, he was a little bit bigger, a little bit faster and a little bit stronger. He will admit that. He’s worked as hard as anybody I’ve ever been around in terms of his rehab.” So—what can fans expect?
Probably a lot more of what they have been seeing, if not worse than what they’ve been seeing.
Kelly’s offense runs off of quick decisions and even faster, accurate passes. Strength was never a concern with Kaepernick in the past, but it has been Kelly’s primary concern with Kaepernick. He has never been an accurate passer which is going to be abundantly clear as he tries to connect with the very average receivers the 49ers currently have on the roster.
His best chance to make a difference is going to be in the running game, but teams already know what he is capable of. Everyone is going to game plan to take away his running lanes and make him beat them throwing—something he has never been good at.
While a change needed to be made, the 49ers might have been better to wait a week and throw Kaepernick in against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rather than the Buffalo Bills. Running lanes will certainly be hard to come by, and Rex Ryan will likely put a ton of pressure on Kaepernick to make sure he doesn’t have the chance to work any of the cobwebs out.
His last start came almost a calendar year ago; a 27-6 loss to the Rams (November 1; he was 20-41 for just 162 yards).