Three years ago, in the midst of a run to the playoffs, the 49ers elected to replace starting quarterback Alex Smith with backup Colin Kaepernick. That decision paid major dividends for a couple of years before the 49ers’ coaching staff and roster fell apart and Kaepernick’s career went off the rails.
With Kaepernick now on injured reserve and likely done in San Francisco, new starter Blaine Gabbert has a chance to follow in Smith’s footsteps and revive his career. Long before he lost his job to Kaepernick, Smith was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft. He was maligned with the 49ers until 2011, when he turned his career around. Smith has since been an effective starter for both the Niners and Chiefs, and it isn’t crazy to suggest Gabbert could go down a similar road, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle opines.
Gabbert was the 10th overall pick in 2011 and had three woeful seasons in Jacksonville before joining the 49ers last year. He made his first start with the team Nov. 8 and helped lead it to a 17-16 win over the Falcons, going 15 of 25 for 185 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. As Branch writes, Gabbert has seven more starts to show 49ers brass what he’s capable of, and he could make a big statement in Seattle on Sunday. That will clearly be a tall order against the NFC’s top-ranked pass defense. Regardless, 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst is hopeful Gabbert can be Smith 2.0.
“There were some similarities to what we felt Alex Smith went through,” said Chryst, who was the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach from 2011-12. “And we felt like Blaine had all this talent and, as a young player, maybe a change of scenery would be good for him.”
More on the 49ers and some other NFC teams:
- In a scathing piece, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News refers to 49ers brass as “bizarre and mindlessly cryptic” for how it handled Kaepernick’s injury. Kawakami likens the end of Kaepernick’s time in San Francisco to that of former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, whose battle with the front office led to his departure after last season.
- Though the Lions are sitting near the bottom of the league at 2-7, their general manager opening is highly appealing, Kyle Meinke of MLive.com submits. The reasons: Detroit’s abundance of draft picks, positive salary cap situation, the return of injured linebacker DeAndre Levy in 2016, and the likelihood of the new GM having full autonomy over the football department.
- The 6-3 Packers might play Sunday’s crucial game against NFC North rival Minnesota (7-2) with only four receivers, as Jared Abbrederis is out, Ty Montgomery is doubtful and, per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky (Twitter link), the team won’t call up Ed Williams from the practice squad. Green Bay is on a three-game losing streak and one contributing factor has been a decline in the passing game, so having a minimal amount of targets probably won’t help Aaron Rodgers‘ cause against the Vikings – who have been stingy against quarterbacks this year. Their defense ranks eighth in the league in aerial yardage allowed, ninth in yards per attempt and 12th in passer rating.
- The Seahawks will wait another week to activate cornerback Jeremy Lane, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. Lane, who suffered ACL and wrist injuries in the Super Bowl last February, came off the physically unable to perform list two weeks ago and has been practicing since. If the Seahawks don’t activate him for their Nov. 29 game against the Steelers, they’ll have to place him on season-ending IR.