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.
Date: October 5, 2016 at 5:33 PM
Comment: Man, keep Gabbert out there. We're trying to get Myles Garrett. Y'all gonna mess it all up. Lol
By: robert ethan
Date: September 27, 2016 at 10:24 PM
Comment: Surprise, surprise, another screeching ethnic trashing Gabbert from his parent's computer.
Date: September 27, 2016 at 1:55 AM
Comment: Don't matter who's coaching, playing or whatever ... they're making money so we can all kiss Jeddys' hairy 'u know what' but keep buying tickets & other team products so the Yorks can laugh all the way to the bank, now that's football !?!
Date: September 26, 2016 at 6:00 PM
Comment: Wow, you mean to tell me these folks hate a player on the team they so faithfully support so much that they would rather lose than risk (winning) I mean injury of said player. A player only 3 years from 2013 Super Bowl and only 3 seasons from NFC title game. And in support of busts from other teams. Hilarious. Lol..
Date: September 26, 2016 at 3:37 PM
Comment: I'm all for benching gabbert.
And frankly, if they put Colin in there, and he gets hurt, and they have to pay him, why should I care? They already aren't spending their cap space. Now I'm supposed to sympathize when the 4th most valuable franchis won't use assets it's already paid for to try to save is season??
York and Blake can E.A.D.
By: monroe whitt
Date: September 26, 2016 at 3:31 PM
Comment: don't matter who the quarterack is....we are garbage and it is simple as that. go santa clara niners
Date: September 26, 2016 at 10:03 AM
Comment: Don't understand why you'd think Ponder isn't up to speed. Bradford is doing great in Minnesota with less time with the team than Ponder has had.
From what I've read Kaepernick is not bulking up, making him a injury risk. The last thing the niners want is for Kaepernick to get hurt bad enough that he couldn't pass his physical next April 1st and be guaranteed a ton of money for next year.
It was me, I'd sit Kaepernick like the Redskins did with RGIII. Dump him, or hope for a trade...no chance with his salary. Get Ponder more snaps with the first unit at practice and stick him in there asap. Gabbert is exposed, everyone knows how to defend him. Fire Baalke. Use our top 5 pick in the draft on a QB.
Date: September 26, 2016 at 9:27 AM
Comment: MT9er thanks for the offer ! Actually my point is sitting at 7th overall in the draft and realizing we have a glaring need at QB why not trade up and take a shot. We never know how good the guy will be but at least go for it when Kap, Gabbert are the future of this team. Once you get the guy start building the O and D Lines.
By: Dan Waterman
Date: September 26, 2016 at 9:15 AM
Comment: As usual a very nice (thoughtful) article, in my opinion, we have seen what Gabbert can and cannot do. He had all season to prepare for this, he still lacks confidence. This was a crucial ‘measuring stick’ game for him and still came up with below average performance. I see folks blaming is thon defense and or trying to justify Gabberts position however, what I think that it is a team effort and QB is the leader of a football team. If that is the case than after defense allowed 7 point on a big run what was stopping our offense to come on the field and score some points. Beside deficiency on QB position this team simply does not have the level of talent to match with any of their opponents. In this specific case, Seattle has a better roster than 49ers. We all know where the responsibility for a roster goes to. I think we have to go with a QB who will win the games for us, I don’t care if it is Gabbert or Kaepernick. It seems like Gabbert is not the answer.
Date: September 26, 2016 at 8:36 AM
Comment: really!!! build through the draft. How? When most of the draft picks since Trent took over are still on this team. He signs no names players for half the price. We had a great team that scott built before he left. We just needed a coach (JIM). Super bowl and NFC championships!. Now what you see is Trent Blake mind... image of a team. You get what you pay for Trent!!!
Date: September 26, 2016 at 8:14 AM
Comment: Nick: if you can honestly sit there and tell me that going into the draft you were the other person outside the Eagles organization that believed Wentz will be playing as well as he currently is, I'll buy you a beer.
Date: September 26, 2016 at 8:13 AM
Comment: It just amazes me that when there is a loss, the blame automatically goes to the QB. This team is bad and we all knew it going into the season. Changing the QB when we don't have an obvious better alternative makes no sense. It will just be disruptive without accomplishing anything. I hope Kelly sticks with it and tries to develope his players and get them to play as a team. Obviously we need better players at a lot of positions but that's not going to happen this year. The next draft we need to concentrate on drafting a QB and some recievers.
Date: September 26, 2016 at 6:31 AM
Comment: Thanks Zain, there is no answer on this current roster. Fans have short memories, Kap will be the same QB we witnessed the past years. Long windup, one read, deer in the headlight when the rush is on top of him. However, many still think he can be what he was before NFL defensive minds figured him out. He'll make a few Wow plays but it's the same old, same old.
Date: September 26, 2016 at 6:21 AM
Comment: This is what happens when you fail to pick up a few free agents. Yes, building through the draft is a good idea but you still need to fill in the missing pieces. The Broncos are a good example. Our corners are terrible. They were faked out on most of the moves and were out performed. We needed to try and secure a tall corner that can handle Graham or even a safety. The front four was not the best but they were able to put pressure on Wilson. We need another linebacker and a good shut down corner. This is going to be a rough session if we continue at this pace. Baalke, spend some of that money, you are going to be fired anyway.
Date: September 26, 2016 at 6:13 AM
Comment: Time to end the Baalke experiment ! Instead of reaching up at #7 to get a potential franchise QB (Wentz) he reaches for marginal D lineman year after year. Kap will do no better than Gabbert.
Date: September 25, 2016 at 11:36 PM
Comment: I guess Blaine is the one that forgot to tackle and cover on defense all day. Kaepernick has lost us games against the Seahawks in their house plenty of times, even when our defense showed up. It wouldn't have been ANY different if he played today.