Having a former top-10 draft pick as your primary backup at quarterback certainly sounds like a luxury to have, but when that player finishes an outing with a 32.4 quarterback rating and its seen as an improvement, you may start to question a few things. Such is the case for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert was the tenth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. After spending three rocky seasons with the Jags, the Missouri product was traded to the Niners for a sixth-round pick. The 49ers were in the in market for a backup after letting fifth-year pro Colt McCoy leave for free agency.
It is important to note that McCoy attempted ONE pass last season as the number two quarterback, and that occurred in mop up work. However, there is always the question of "what if?"
Gabbert certainly struggled to find a rhythm in the Niners preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens. The 24-year old completed 3 of 11 passes for 20 yards, while throwing one interception, all adding up to a 1.7 quarterback rating. He followed up that performance by completing 8 of 14 passes for 40 yards with a pick, adding up to what was stated above, a 32.4 QB rating. His timing was off, the reads were questionable and the throws were spotty at best.
"The biggest thing is consistency. You can't turn the football over because that disrupts the rhythm." explained Gabbert.
The only saving grace for his performance actually had nothing to do with him. Quarterbacks Josh Johnson and McLeod Bethel-Thompson turned the ball over as well (one apiece) and did nothing special with their opportunities.
Despite the two lackluster performances, when Head Coach Jim Harbaugh was asked if he will seek help to improve the backup situation, he said, " No. We got good quarterbacks."
Harbaugh has constantly stood by his players through the media and at times sugar coating their performances, possibly in an attempt to instill added confidence in them. While Gabbert's contract (guaranteed $2.1 million for this season) essentially ensures he makes the team, it does not directly put him in line to be the number two behind starter Colin Kaepernick.
Coach Harbaugh may have leaked a bit of frustration after the Niners 34-0 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday as he stated,
"Well, I think right now, in terms of a backup quarterback, it'll be as simple as whoever doesn't turn the ball over. They're turning the ball over. All of them have. There's nobody to elevate. Whoever doesn't turn the ball over will be the backup quarterback."
Next Sundays game against the San Diego Chargers may prove vital for all quarterbacks not named Kaepernick (and for all players on the bubble for that matter) as Harbaugh also pointed out, "Things need to tighten down, fast."
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