This is not a “conspiracy theory” piece. This is not a “the San Francisco 49ers like Blaine Gabbert better and always wanted him to start (even though that may be true)” piece. This is simply a true story – the 49ers’ Quarterback Battle that Never Was. And just to be clear, this is focused on the on-field competition, not the Anthem controversy. If you want to discuss that, we have several other threads.
You see, in a competition that was probably over before it started, as soon as it was announced that Colin Kaepernick had shoulder issues and couldn’t practice and couldn’t play, the competition was over. It was done. Gabbert was going to start Week 1 on Monday Night Football, September 12 against the Los Angeles Rams. On a national stage, the 49ers will get to show the NFL that this is the best we got. Come and get us.
However, I’m not convinced Gabbert is the best we got. Yes, Kaepernick had a terrible game. Chip Kelly said Kaepernick was “up and down” just like the rest of the offense. That was a nice way to put it. Kaepernick was 2 of 6 for 14 yards, with three almost interceptions. Even though Kaepernick said after the game that he didn’t feel rusty, the numbers don't lie, and he was rusty. He hasn’t played football in 10 months. He’s had significantly fewer reps this offseason and through training camp than Gabbert.
Speaking of Gabbert, QB1 who’s wearing No. 2 didn’t exactly light up the field either. Kelly was right. The whole offense looked shabby. Gabbert was 2 of 3 for 14 yards. Yes, the 49ers scored a touchdown with him, but that was on a backwards pass to WR Quinton Patton that was recorded as a three-yard TD run. Clearly, he looked better than Kap looked tonight, but has he really looked great this preseason? No.
So back to football. Here’s my prediction: Gabbert will start Game 1; the 49ers will beat the Rams; everyone will be excited. San Francisco will then take off for Carolina and Seattle. They will lose both games, badly. Sure, the defense will look good and promising, but there will be little offense to speak of. The Niners will return to Levi’s to play Dallas and squeak out a win. The Gabbert love will be back and then four days later the Arizona Cardinals will come to town and give the Niners a beat down. Kaepernick will start game six against the Buffalo Bills with a chance to save the season.
After Friday’s game, Kaepernick said, “I just want to play football. End of the day, I just love playing football.” Well, he may have to wait awhile for regular season game action.
He will have a lot more practice time and time to learn the offense. Will that help? Who knows. But that will be his real chance to gain his job back. And if that doesn’t work? Hello Jeff Driskel! Let’s start getting ready for 2017.