With all storylines pointing towards the idea of the San Francisco 49ers parting ways with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the microscope has been focused on the man called upon to fill the role, Blaine Gabbert.
The focus became amplified once the team announced Kaepernick was placed on season-ending injured reserve due to a torn labrum. At that point, Gabbert became the undisputed starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.
Even if his official status on the teams depth-chart has changed, Gabbert doesn’t believe the fundamentals of his job have changed. At all.
“I think if you’re the starting quarterback, the leadership part is there, regardless if you’re the starter one week, two weeks or three weeks,” Gabbert said. “You have to be that vocal guy in the locker room, in the huddle, on the offensive side of the ball, because the guys got to rally around you.”
After his first start since the 2013 season against the Atlanta Falcons, Gabbert marched into CenturyLink Field for his second start — a stadium that has haunted the minds of the 49ers and their fans for years. San Francisco has not emerged victorious on the road against the Seahawks since the 2011 season, when Alex Smith was behind center. That didn’t change, but a few other significant changes did.
If nothing else, we know that Gabbert performed in a much more satisfying fashion than Colin Kaepernick has in recent years. Kaepernick has completed 53 percent of his passes, thrown two touchdowns and six interceptions, and posted a 55.2 passer rating in four starts in Seattle.
Gabbert posted a 106.2 passer rating during the first half. He finished the game with a 98.2 rating — that number that fell just shy of making him the first 49ers quarterback to have a 100-plus rating against the Seahawks since 2008. He finished the game 22 of 34 for 264 yards, throwing one touchdown and zero interceptions.
Gabbert’s teammates are presumably still getting to know the 26-year-old, but for now, have buy-in surrounding his abilities.
“Blaine’s our guy,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “I thought he did a good job moving the offense. This is a hard place to pass the ball, and I thought he did a great job of moving the chains and making plays when he had to.”
Staley may not just be towing the company line, criticism and doubt over the skill of San Francisco’s offensive line has run rampant since the start of training camp back in August. Against the Seahawks, they offered fair protection, Gabbert was sacked just two times. During the two’s last meeting in October, the Seahawks sacked Kaepernick six times.
Dating back to his days as a member of the Jaguars organization, other’s have questioned Gabbert’s grit and alleged lack of toughness. He did exit the Falcons game after receiving a big hit, but it’s fair to point out that exit was because of league protocol. On Sunday in Seattle, Gabbert displayed how tough he can actually be — he was hit at least seven times from the Seahawks’ pass rush.
Head coach Jim Tomsula agreed with the veteran tackle. Tomsula said Gabbert used all of his tools and exerted the best effort possible in the loss.
“I thought Blaine and the poise he showed today was really good,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. “He used his feet. He used his arm. He got himself out of some things. He kept his eyes downfield and made some plays. I’m not into moral victories, but that was encouraging.”
Gabbert said his mindset has remained the same since he got the job, and he will continue to approach the situation the same for as long as he has it.
“The mindset has been the same since I started last week,” he said. “Just take it and run with it. You’re the starter for that week, and that’s how you’ve got to approach things. Even when you’re the backup quarterback you approach the preparation throughout the week as a starter because you’re only one play away.”
No longer will we wake Monday questioning who Tomsula will choose to start the next game. Gabbert will start against the Cardinals next Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.