Early on after the start of the new league year, the San Francisco 49ers surprised most of us when they shipped a 2014 sixth round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Blaine Gabbert. The former first round pick has done next to nothing in Jacksonville, frustrating Jaguars fans in the meantime.
It seemed only fitting to speak with Alfie from Big Cat Country to get his closing thoughts on Gabbert:
The Jaguars drafted Blaine Gabbert in a bit of a surprise move trading up for him, which looking back now looks like a panic move to ensure they got a quarterback. He sat the first two games of his rookie year, but came in as a starter and wasn't terrible, but also wasn't very good. He seemed to flash a bit later in the season and then in 2012 had a nice preseason, putting a lot of hope in fans he would be just fine. He crashed and burned however and eventually was replaced by Chad Henne. He didn't fair much better the next season.
Gabbert is the classic teaser quarterback, in that he's big, athletic and has a good arm, but he just can't operate on game day. He will often look great in practice without live pass rushers, but when the lights are on he folds in the pocket. His internal clock seems accelerated and he often sees phantom pressure on deeper drops. It's possible he can be salvaged as a backup, but to expect him to wind up a starting quality player at this point is short of believing in magic.
The 49ers are not looking for a starting quarterback, but rather simply looking to develop some backup talent. Colin Kaepernick is the 49ers starting quarterback, and that is not up for debate. Gabbert is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and the $2,011,587 salary is fully guaranteed. It seems highly unlikely that Gabbert does not enter the season as the one of Kap's backups. He should get plenty of snaps in the preseason, so we'll see how much he teases us. Beyond the preseason, his only chances at regular season playing time are mop-up duty or if Kap got hurt. And if Kap got hurt, there aren't a lot of backup options that would help!
The 49ers attended Gabbert's performance at Missouri's Pro Day back in 2011. The team ended up drafting Aldon Smith, but then first year head coach Jim Harbaugh appeared to come away impressed with Gabbert. Check out this video from Gabbert's performance that day (h/t Matt Barrows). Coach Harbaugh shows up at the 2:25 mark and says:
I was dazzled. Very impressive. Showed was very athletic underneath the center, really drove the ball well, really good accuracy. I thought it was an excellent performance.
Take that however you want, but obviously Harbaugh sees something in him. While Trent Baalke handles much of the offseason personnel work, he's said Jim Harbaugh has a big say in the quarterback position. Harbaugh thinks he can salvage Gabbert. This could end with Gabbert walking as a free agent in a year with nothing in return. Or maybe the 49ers figure out a way to sign him to maybe a 2-year extension, and somehow flip him for a 5th or 6th round pick. You never know.