The San Francisco 49ers coaching staff made a big move on Monday, reportedly benching Colin Kaepernick and inserting Blaine Gabbert as the starting quarterback. The team is going through class-room work and beginning preparations for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, which means Gabbert is likely going to be speaking to the media on Wednesday in Kaepernick's normal slot.
The move is not surprising given Kaepernick's struggles. Aside from a decent performance against the New York Giants, and a solid performance against the Baltimore Ravens, he has been a bad quarterback this season. Blame can be placed on a lot of shoulders. Kaepernick, the offensive line, the coaching staff. Blame deserves to go on a lot of shoulders.
And now, enter Blaine Gabbert.
There are folks who have been clamoring for Kaepernick to be benched. They say be careful what you wish for, and that is somewhat applicable in this situation. I am pretty sure most people recognize that Gabbert is not the answer to the 49ers woes in 2015 and beyond. I am pretty sure most people recognize that Gabbert is not a good quarterback.
In case you don't, a quick rundown of his historically bad numbers is in order. Pro Football Reference provides a fantastic database to compare players across NFL history. Since 1970, Gabbert has the second worst adjusted net yards per attempt. Here is how that top five shakes out:
1. Ryan Leaf
2. Blaine Gabbert
3. Heath Shuler
4. Charlie Frye
5. Gary Huff
ESPN also posted this little nugget after the news broke that Gabbert would become the starter:
Worst Total QBR Last 10 Seasons Minimum 1,000 Action Plays Blaine Gabbert 22.6 (reportedly new 49ers starter) Brandon Weeden 28.6— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 3, 2015
Some would argue, well the Jaguars were awful, so there is some context to his struggles. To that I say, have you seen the 2015 San Francisco 49ers?
On Monday morning, Tim Kawakami wrote an article suggesting the 49ers bench Kaepernick and see what Gabbert can do. What I found most intriguing about the column is the idea of using a placebo to see just what to make of this offense. We've seen how the offense operates with Kaepernick behind center. Now we get to see what happens with Gabbert. This is far from a controlled experiment. I imagine we see some changes to the game plan. There are changes at running back at tight end. Maybe we see some changes with Jordan Devey and Andrew Tiller (maybe?).
It is not a controlled experiment, but it makes sense to have a comparison for Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers will have to make a decision on Kaepernick's future between now and next April 1. They have the cap room to bring him back for another year at his 2016 salary, but the odds of that happening seem pretty slim. Instead, they could release him, trade him, or restructure his contract. Whatever the case, Gabbert provides a comparison for now as this franchise tries to figure out what's next.