SANTA CLARA — Quarterback is without question the top spot on the team. While football is a team sport and relies on a team effort to get the victory, the quarterback bears the most weight of any other position within the team.
In 2015, the 49ers struggled; and that is stating it mildly, particularly on the offensive side where the Niners scored the least amount of points (14.9) in the entire NFL.
Both Colin Kaepernick (who began the season as the starter) and Blaine Gabbert (who ended the season as the starter) had their fair share of struggles behind what most saw as a porous offensive line last year. This offseason, the team addressed that issue by signing Pro Bowl guard, Zane Beadles and drafting Joshua Garnett (28th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft), along with a couple of mid rounders in John Theus (Georgia) and Fahn Cooper (Ole Miss).
While the Niners seem to be on the right track in regards to getting the quarterback (whomever it may wind up being) some protection, the uncertainty at the quarterback position itself. Colin Kaepernick, the starter from 2012 up to Week 7 of last year, has yet to be cleared by the medical staff to begin working out and throwing passes. He has been sighted taking mental reps with slow drop backs in recent voluntary workouts. However, it has been Blaine Gabbert taking all the first team reps on everything with Dylan Thompson and Thad Lewis taking all the second and third string reps.
I don’t believe there is any doubt that this will be a very open quarterback competition between Kap and Gabbert heading in to the season behind the steering wheel of Chip Kelly’s playbook and high tempo offensive scheme. Statistically, Gabbert fared better than Kap in 2015 but Kap had some very significantly bad games (i.e. the first Cardinals game where he threw 4 interceptions, two of which went for pick sixes) that made his stats seemingly very bad on the whole. The team went 2-6 with Kap under center and 3-5 with Gabbert under center.
A lot will hinge of whether or not Kap is healthy and ready to go by preseason. I imagine that he will be cleared medically very soon. With that said, I am not a doctor and this should be taken with a grain of salt. Right now, as things stand, Gabbert is the number one quarterback. A lot could change between now and the start of the season as well.
In the NFL, you just never know for sure what could happen. Jeff Driskel (The Niners 6th Rounder this year), Thad Lewis (newly acquired free agent this offseason), and Dylan Thompson (a rookie undrafted free agent last season) will all have their own time to shine as well. It’s hard to imagine that any of the three latter names mentioned will do anything other than back up, but I am sure at some point the same things were said about players such as Tom Brady, Tony Romo, and Russell Wilson…
One thing is certain, this offseason should be a very interesting one to watch for the San Francisco 49ers.