The San Francisco 49ers are not doing well this season. That’s an understatement, to say the least. But when they decided to start Blaine Gabbert against the Atlanta Falcons, the message was clear. It was time to dump Colin Kaepernick and move on. The 49ers won with the backup quarterback, 17-16. The upset was the last nail in the coffin. According to sources cited by CBS Sports, Kaepernick is done in San Francisco.
Kaepernick’s struggles weren’t hidden. His play had been steadily declining since missing a return trip to the Super Bowl. Sadly, he’s still the guy who looked like the next Joe Montana at the end of that season. His benching strengthened the rumors that there is something amiss between upper management and the franchise signal caller. The breakdown between Kaepernick and ownership is a dead giveaway that he won’t be back with the Niners next year.
If San Francisco decides to release Kaepernick, who’s the best option? The Niners won their game against the Falcons, but Gabbert didn’t do anything spectacular in the victory. After the game, per ESPN, Coach Jim Tomsula wasn’t sure Gabbert earned the next start against Seattle but didn’t downplay the possibility.
“I’m not commenting on it. I’m not going to get into it, because I’m going to go back and watch tape,” Tomsula said. “Blaine had a great day today.”
Kaepernick watched it all from the sideline until he was needed early in the fourth quarter for two plays that gained no yards. Gabbert took a hard blow to the head from linebacker Philip Wheeler and came out to be checked for a concussion.
Gabbert was giddy about the win and seemed to have a prepared answer ready for reporters.
“All I know is we got the victory today, we’ve got a bye week coming up and we’re going to prepare for Seattle. That’s our next game up there, so whatever 11 guys we march out on the field we’re going to go up there and expect a victory,” Gabbert said. “I consider myself a smart guy, so I can form my own words. It was wonderful, I’m so appreciative of this opportunity.”
Since then, Tomsula has made his decision. Gabbert has been named the starter and Kaepernick will be riding the bench again. Gabbert was not spectacular in the start. He threw for 185 yards on 15-of-25 passing with the two touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 76.2. It was his fourth straight start with at least two interceptions.
If the 49ers decide to stick with Kaepernick and get him turned around, his contract is the biggest hurdle. He signed a $126 million contract extension in 2014. But the Niners structured Kaepernick’s contract so they could have multiple exit clauses. There’s very little real guaranteed money tied up in him. With Kaepernick’s performance this season, the 49ers may be looking forward to dumping him sooner than later.
The case for releasing Kaepernick keeps growing. Last year, it was supposedly the rift between former coach Harbaugh and the whole franchise. Then it was the cast around him that was getting worse. The offensive line was supposed to be horrible. In the battle against the Falcons, the 49ers didn’t give up a sack. They were also without Carlos Hyde and Anquan Boldin. But they won the game. It all keeps coming back to Kaepernick, and it doesn’t look good.
But who will be the man replacing Kaepernick as quarterback? Gabbert is the same signal caller who was run out of town by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gabbert ended a 10-game losing streak as a starter since beating Indianapolis on September 23, 2012, improving to 6-22.
This may very well be the last season Colin Kaepernick puts on the red and gold.
[Photo by Ezra Shaw / Getty Images]