Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
The San Francisco 49ers traded a sixth-round pick for quarterback Blaine Gabbert, a trade that, at the time, made very many Jacksonville Jaguars fans laugh hysterically. I tried to get some information from Alfie Crow from Big Cat Country immediately after the trade, but he just kept cackling madly and eventually I feared for my safety and gave up asking.
At the end of the day, it's hard to imagine Gabbert being more effective than Colt McCoy or more useful than ... basically anybody, really. But neither you nor I hold the title of NFL general manager (Mr. Baalke, if you're reading this you are, of course, the exception to the rule) and if I tried to put myself in Trent Baalke's shoes I guess I can kind of see why this move was made.
For one, we've dealt with astoundingly bad quarterback classes in recent seasons when it comes to the NFL Draft (as far as depth is concerned) and the free agent market has left a whole lot to be desired. All of the veterans with anything left in the tank are getting bigger deals from very desperate teams, and I imagine the 49ers felt Gabbert fit well as a backup.
So let's put it like this ... if you think that you need to spend a sixth-round pick to not have to worry about the guy backing up the most-important player on your team, wouldn't you do it? Sure, from the Jaguars' perspective, they made out like bandits and laughed all the way to the 2014 NFL Draft, where they took Virginia center Luke Bowanko with the selection.
Gabbert has done little to inspire any kind of real confidence and in the seven regular season passes he's attempted in a 49ers uniform, he's completed three of them for 38 yards. To his credit, one of those passes was a touchdown. He wasn't exactly impressive in the preseason, either. In three seasons with Jacksonville, he threw 22 touchdowns and 24 interceptions and is officially considered a draft bust given he is a former first-round pick.
I hope we never have to see Gabbert throw a regular season pass again. I hope Colin Kaepernick rebounds from the struggles that plagued him last season and I hope Gabbert is at least able to look like he knows how to throw at a player wearing red when the preseason rolls around. If I had to guess, he's Kaepernick's primary backup once again in 2015, while Dylan Thompson is either carried on the practice squad or the 53-man roster as the emergency quarterback.
Why he might improve:
This is an odd one to consider. If we notice marked improvement from Gabbert, then that likely means he's throwing regular season passes and that's a bad sign. It's certainly possible that Gabbert is picking up the new offense well and would also benefit from the inclusion of Torrey Smith and an uninjured Vernon Davis. It's also worth noting that he's still just 25 years old -- we've probably seen the best of him, but that's far from guaranteed. Improvement for Gabbert is a strong preseason and a firm grasp of the offense, both of which are totally realistic.
Why he might regress:
How do you regress from almost nothing? I suppose regression in this instance would necessitate a series of comedic but damaging errors on the sidelines and in the locker room which create chaos for the organization. Maybe Gabbert brings Kaepernick a nice coffee one morning but forgets the slip-cover and Kaepernick suffers bad burns on his hand. Maybe he stumbles over the edge of the bench holding 1,500 pounds of offensive linemen, who comedically roll down the flipped bench onto eachother. Perhaps Gabbert is the guy who is supposed to set the alarms before the big game on Sunday but he accidentally mutes them in the team hotel and the 49ers don't show up.
It can happen.
Odds of making the roster:
I'm sure many of you want to believe in a world where Gabbert is gone and Thompson is the real deal but if we're being truthful, I don't think it matters so much what Thompson shows throughout training camp and the preseason. I don't think the 49ers wand an undrafted rookie as the primary backup and I think Gabbert's roster spot is safe. Not so safe that his ousting could only be instigated by aliens, of course, but I don't see a scenario in which he's not the primary backup heading into next season.