John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports



It was another game in the Pacific Northwest, and it was another embarrassing loss for the 49ers. The theme has become all too common in the past few years when going up to Seattle: unprepared team, bad defense, really bad offense, blowout losses and Pete Carroll joyfully giggling and skipping down the Seahawks' sideline. The last time the 49ers won in Seattle was in 2011.

Give the Seahawks credit, they do this to a lot of teams. They expose weaknesses, they play aggressively and the embarrass teams that are lesser than them at home. This version of the 49ers became the latest on that list.

There are a lot of fingers to be pointed; the defense gave up 2 very quick scores that immediately put the team in a hole, the defensive line (which was supposed to be a strength of this team) could not stop the run, nor rush the passer until the game was out of reach, the play calls from head coach Chip Kelly looked like they were straight out of his preseason playbook and the 49ers are lacking talent at several key positions- it really was a team loss.

The 49ers offense was stagnant while gaining only 254 yards on the day, much of it after the game was out of reach. They went 0-10 on their first 10 third downs (they finished the game 3-12) and didn't pick up their first first down until the final minute of the first quarter. We're talking about a unit that led the league in 3 and outs coming into the game -14 drives had ended in 3 and outs in the first 2 games of the season - and padded that stat with a few more today.

As a result of this, much of the post-game focus shifted to the ineffective Blaine Gabbert. I want to make it clear that this isn't an indictment against Gabbert as a person, because he really does seem to do a lot of things right: he's great with his teammates, he has good study habits with regard to the playbook and he doesn't get into trouble off the field. The issue is that none of that seems to translate to what he does on the field.

Gabbert finished the game 14/25 for 119 yards, 1 interception, a quarterback rating of 33.3. He didn't complete a pass longer than 18 yards and rarely threw beyond the first down marker. He was inaccurate, and his completion percentage for the season dropped to 55.2%. Only Case Keenum (53.8) of the LA Rams has a worse completion percentage among current starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

The Seahawks dared Gabbert to throw deep and he never took a shot. They consistently played with 9 and 10 men in the box and bottled up running back Carlos Hyde for 3 quarters, though Hyde eventually broke the 100 yard mark with 67 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 4th quarter.

It seemed as if Chip Kelly was coaching around Gabbert's deficiencies. Kelly seemed to be trying to make it easier on Gabbert by calling more vanilla plays that were easier for the quarterback to find open receivers in. This may work for teams with elite talent - we saw this with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick (the good Colin Kaepernick) under Jim Harbaugh - but this team is devoid of significant talent at several key positions.

Outspoken Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett was asked about the Niners quarterback situation: "I think Kaepernick give them a better chance of winning...". All of this lends credence to the thought that the 49ers need to bench Gabbert. Now.

It seems as if the 49ers are using half of a playbook on offense. The play calls are predictable, vanilla and executed poorly. A team can't win games consistently when playing like that, especially against the best teams in the league. The whole thing seems very un-Chip Kelly, who is still an elite offensive mind in my opinion.

Gabbert has been missing open receivers, inaccurate on short throws (thought to be his strength), unable to complete deep passes and has generally played far too conservative for the situation. He's the third worst rated quarterback in the league with a rating of 68.6. Only Keenum (66.1) and the Jets' Ryan Fitzpatrick (59.3) are rated worse - It's worth noting that Fitzpatrick's rating dropped significantly today after a 6 INT performance.

The problem is that the 49ers don't have many great alternatives right now.

Their alternatives are to let Gabbert try to ride it out (probably not the best idea), start Colin Kaepernick (we'll eventually see him this season anyway, might as well give him a shot sooner than later to see what he has left) or start Christian Ponder (does he even know the playbook yet?). I'm leaning towards starting Kaepernick (let's take his political views out of the equation for a second).

A lot of people won't like that, but Gabbert clearly isn't the answer. Kaepernick had a terrible year last year and his stats have been regressing since 2013, but he's also had a ton of success in his career and knows what it takes to win. That being said, he's a shell of his former self and most likely won't do much better than Gabbert. He may be a total loss at this point, but the team has to do something to light a spark and he could be the guy to provide it.

Ponder is a carbon copy of Gabbert. He can make some plays, but lacks the consistency that it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Ponder also hasn't had a full offseason with the team like Gabbert and Kaepernick has so he's already too far behind to be given the reigns this early, so much so that he was inactive for the game against Seattle on Sunday.

It comes down to what Chip Kelly thinks is best for the team. It's going to be up to him to make the call that could save the season; to say with Gabbert and hope he improves or make a change. Otherwise, the 49ers and their fans will suffer through the second straight forgettable campaign since the team took a self-imposed hiatus from competitive football in 2014 when they fired Jim Harbaugh.

The last two weeks were supposed to be "measuring stick games" that were going to show how the 49ers, and Gabbert, stacked up against the league's elite. A week after Kelly said that he had no thoughts of benching Gabbert against the Panthers, Kelly mentioned that he had no thoughts of benching Gabbert in the second half today, but he'll only be able to deflect criticism to a certain point. That point may be coming very soon and he may have no choice but to make a change if Gabbert continues to play the way that he's played the last two weeks.