While there is uncertainty about Colin Kaepernick’s situation with the 49ers in 2016 – will he stay or will he go? -- Blaine Gabbert’s status is more solid.
The 49ers certainly could sign a free-agent quarterback or draft one to compete for the starting role, but Gabbert will likely be in the mix.
After resurrecting what looked like a dead NFL career with a solid half season in San Francisco, Gabbert goes into this offseason at age 26 with another year left on his contract for a very affordable salary-cap cost of $2.25 million.
After making just one mop-up appearance for the 49ers in 2014, Gabbert started eight games for the 49ers in 2015, completing a career-high 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,031 yards and 10 touchdowns vs. seven interceptions. His quarterback rating of 86.2 eclipsed his marks of 65.4, 77.4 and 36.0 in his three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also showed an ability to run and buy time in the pocket against pass rushers and came out of the season encouraged.
“I’m approaching this offseason like I’m the starting quarterback of the 49ers,” he told a reporter earlier this offseason, before Chip Kelly was hired as the successor to Jim Tomsula as head coach. “Regardless of what happens, that’s my mindset going forward, that I’m going to take this team and run with it.”
Now that Kelly has taken over, Gabbert has a hint of what’s in store for 2016. He’ll need to learn a new offensive system that operates more quickly than any other in the NFL. It’s a fast-paced scheme that will require quick reads, quick releases and quick feet, with the read-option a big part of the offense that Kelly also ran with the Philadelphia Eagles and at the University of Oregon.
This week, Gabbert told Carl Steward and Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group that he’s only had a brief meeting so far with Kelly, but he’s been studying film of Kelly’s offense with his previous teams and has a feel for what Kelly will require of him.
“I think the biggest thing from the quarterback standpoint is you have to distribute the ball to your playmakers,” Gabbert said. “The quarterback has to be in control of the game, so from that standpoint, you need a guy back there who knows the system in and out and knows where to go with the football.”
One thing he does know is that Kelly “has a proven track record of winning.”
“He’s going to bring that culture to the building, and I know we all can’t wait to start working with him,” said Gabbert.