Head coach Chip Kelly left the door open for backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick to grab the reins from Blaine Gabbert after the 49ers’ 33-21 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday. It now appears Kaepernick will start the 49ers’ Week 6 game in Buffalo, multiple sources have told Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link).
Gabbert beat out Kaepernick for the 49ers’ starting role over the summer, but the latter wasn’t in football shape after undergoing surgeries on his left knee, left shoulder and right thumb. It’s unknown how physically ready Kaepernick is now, but whether it’s him or fellow backup Christian Ponder – whom some 49ers players reportedly prefer – the free-falling club needs to make a change under center.
As has been the case for most of his six-year career, Gabbert has performed woefully this season. The 10th overall pick of the 2011 draft and former Jaguar has completed just 58 percent of his 150 passes this year with a 5.93 YPA, five touchdowns against six interceptions, and a 69.6 QB rating. Along the way, the 49ers have lost four in a row after winning their opener in resounding fashion, 28-0, over the Rams.
Of the 49ers’ three signal-callers, Kaepernick has easily enjoyed the most on-field success. Before last season, when his numbers dipped significantly in an injury-shortened year, the 2011 second-rounder from Nevada was a major dual threat who combined for 50 touchdowns and 21 interceptions as a passer from 2012-14 while rushing for over 1,500 yards. He also helped lead San Francisco to a Super Bowl berth during the 2012-13 campaign and a place in the NFC title game the next season.
More recently, Kaepernick’s activism has drawn far more attention than his resume as a player. The 28-year-old has become one of America’s most polarizing athletes in recent memory on account of his refusal to stand for the pregame national anthem. In doing so, Kaepernick is protesting racial injustice in America, and his choice has spurred other NFLers to make similar pregame statements.
Regardless of whether Kaepernick reclaims his old job against the Bills, he could go forward with a restructured contract. Kaepernick and the 49ers are working to amend the long-term deal they reached in 2014, meaning he would be able to void the pact after this season.
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