SANTA CLARA — A lot of folks in the football following world had Blaine Gabbert chalked up as a loser and a bust in his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars; a team that has not won anything in a very long time in terms of post season success. While Gabbert did not have the best weapons to surround him, or a competent offensive line, while in Jacksonville, he didn’t really even flash here in there in any way that would suggest that he would ever be even a serviceable starter in the National Football League; at least not until last season when he started half the year for the 49ers after Colin Kaepernick was benched for his terrible performances.
In 2011, as a rookie Gabbert had barely over a 50% completion rate and had an almost even TD/INT ratio. He was sacked a whopping 40 times for a loss of 293 yards in the wrong direction. Some of that was from shell shock and some of it was from a porous offensive line and lack of receiving targets. The teams record that year with Gabbert under center was 4-12.
The following year in 2012 was not much better for Blaine. He started 10 games that year and the team went 1-9. However, that was not all on Gabbert. He was working again behind center of a crappy offensive line. The defense was one of the worst in the NFL as well. But his completion rate increased to 58% and his TD/INT ratio was slightly better in year two before a multitude of things happened to hinder his career from advancing.
Since Gabbert’s sophomore year, he only started a handful of games so it was very tough to gauge his success and progress up until last season when he came in and fired up a very bear up both physically and morally 49ers team. Gabbert led the Niners to a 3-5 record which was slightly better than what Colin Kaepernick had done in the previous 8 games. But the team seemed to rally behind Gabbert a bit more than they did with Kaepernick.
Gabbert was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft with the 10th overall pick and was expected to be the face of the Jaguars franchise for years to come. Colin Kaepernick was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft and at that point in time it was uncertain as to whether or not a resurrected Alex Smith (the number one overall pick in the 2005 draft) would be the starter.
Fast forward to the 2016 offseason and you have yet again another former top 10 pick going head to head against Kaepernick who stole the position via injury to Alex Smith in 2012. One was picked to be the face of the franchise and the other as a contingency plan.
As things stand now, all signs are pointing to Gabbert opening the season against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football. Colin Kaepernick will be given a chance but with the amount of reps that Gabbert has taken through OTA’s and Training Camp give him a leg up on the Niners former starter in Kap.
Should Gabbert start, he will be given something that he has never had in his career in a potentially very upgraded and very good offensive line. With what Chip Kelly did in Philadelphia with both Nick Foles and Sam Bradford, it is not the craziest notion in the world to think that he cannot do the same, or even better with Blaine Gabbert who has a skill set better than either Foles or Bradford. Carlos Hyde and the Niners rushing attack could very well help the Niners get back on track as well.
Regardless if it is Gabbert or Kaepernick behind center this year, the Niners are expected not to do well by not only the local media but national pundits as well. However, all reports out of camp have been that this Niners team is gelling and there are some things that are parallel in this team and a young Seattle Seahawks team just a few years ago before they started turning no named players in to household names. The games have to be played each week and only one team can win. I would not count the Niners out before the season even begins.