It only took five weeks for Blaine Gabbert to lose his starting QB job to Colin Kaepernick. San Francisco 49ers HC Chip Kelly announced today that Kaepernick would be the starting QB. “We were very analytical and sat down as a staff and watched tape and went over everything,” said Kelly. “We’ve had a couple days to digest everything where we are. I think offensively, we just need to be better and we just need to make a move.” Blaine Gabbert is last in the NFL in yards per attempt and he has the 2nd-worst passer rating in the league. The question now is whether Kaepernick has anything left in the tank.
Kaepernick came into the national spotlight after he took over for Alex Smith in 2012. The 49ers offense was always simplified because of Alex Smith’s limitations. The offense was carried by a strong O-line and running game. Kaepernick played similarly to Smith in that he needed to play a game manager role to minimize his weaknesses, but the added arm strength and mobility is what really made the 49ers covet Kaep. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that when most of the core players for the Niners let that Kaep’s play declined. Having Frank Gore and an offensive line that was top ten in PFF grades from 2012-2015 was more the reason why he succeeded than his actual QB abilities. His lack of touch, anticipation, and field reading would have made him a bad QB if he didn’t have the phycial talents. He was always at his best when he was just another key and playing a smaller role rather than winning a game by himself.
Well, he can’t just be another key on the cog for this version of the 49ers. With his best WR being Torrey Smith and not having much else at his disposal besides Carlos Hyde, Kaep will need to be more of a playmaker and that is very possible. The read-option can be a focal point of the offense again. If Kaep still possesses his dynamic running ability, then that could open up Hyde with the defense keying in on Kaep, or vice versa.
Another positive of the QB move is that Torrey Smith may become alive again. Torrey Smith has 9 catches through 5 weeks… which is very low for a speed threat. Kaep possesses a stronger arm than Gabbert and can hit Smith in stride on GO routes. Kaep isn’t the most accurate QB as he doesn’t possess touch on his throws, but his combination of running and arm strength is what made him a quality NFL QB. Similar to the way Cam Newton’s physical gifts made him MVP.