Colin Kaepernick is out. Blaine Gabbert is in.
The 49ers on Monday informed Kaepernick what seemed inevitable when coach Jim Tomsula refused to back him earlier in the day: He will not start the team’s next game at home against Atlanta. The news was first reported by BayAreaSportsGuy.com and confirmed by The Bee.
Instead, the 49ers will turn the offense over to Gabbert, 26, who played well in the preseason but has a career 66.4 passer rating and struggled with the same sort of pass-rush pressure in Jacksonville that has plagued Kaepernick this year with the 49ers. Kaepernick was informed of the decision Monday by Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst.
Tomsula telegraphed the move earlier in the day when, asked if he’s decided who will start against the Falcons, said, “We’re evaluating everybody.”
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Tomsula had been quick to defend and support Kaepernick, including on Oct. 23 after the 49ers’ loss to the Seahawks. “Colin is our quarterback,” Tomsula said then. “There’s no controversies.”
It didn’t sound as if players would resist a change at any spot, including the most important one on the team.
“It needs a jolt, and it needs it from every position,” fullback Bruce Miller said. “I know that we can play better at all 11 spots, and until we do that and play together as a group, I think it’s fair to say that every position is under review.”
Kaepernick has started every game for the 49ers since he replaced Alex Smith on Nov. 19, 2012. He entered Sunday’s contest against the Rams without his most trusted target, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and ended it without the team’s top three running backs, Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush and Mike Davis, all of whom are hurt. The 49ers’ tailbacks combined for 10 rushing yards Sunday; Kaepernick had 28.
Tomsula said Monday he wasn’t “looking for excuses.”
“Colin didn’t play good enough; neither did the team,” he said. “The San Francisco 49ers didn’t play good enough.”
Kaepernick, who turns 28 Tuesday, didn’t throw an interception against the Rams, his fourth straight game without a turnover. Still, he made mistakes, including when he failed to see that wideout Torrey Smith was open on a first-down play from San Francisco’s 3-yard line. Kaepernick’s 78.8 passer rating is one of the worst among starting quarterbacks.
Tomsula has resisted using Gabbert this season, even during the biggest blowout losses. But with the 49ers (2-6) four games behind in the division race and with the bye week beginning in seven days, a big move was in the offing. The 49ers host Atlanta (6-2) on Sunday.
Gabbert hasn’t started a game since Oct. 6, 2013, a blowout loss to the Rams in St. Louis. He completed only 47.4 percent of his passes in that game and injured his hamstring. He was healthy enough to play against the 49ers three weeks later in London, but Chad Henne started, and Gabbert officially was benched.
The 49ers can part ways with Kaepernick without any major contract repercussions if they do so before April 1. That theoretically will give them an opportunity to evaluate free agents and draft picks and make a plan at the position. Evaluating Gabbert is part of that plan.
The NFL’s trade deadline is Tuesday at 1 p.m. Trading Kaepernick, however, is unlikely because he and Gabbert are the only quarterbacks on the roster. General manager Trent Baalke hasn’t drafted a quarterback since selecting B.J. Daniels in the seventh round in 2013.
Kaepernick said Sunday he had not met with Baalke or anyone in the 49ers’ front office to discuss his future.
“To me, I’m doing everything I can to win games,” Kaepernick said. “Whether they make that change or not is their decision. But I’ll give this team everything I have every week.”
Kaepernick said his contract does not weigh on his mind.
“I play this game because I love it,” he said. “I don’t play this game for the money. I’ll be fine without football if that ever came about. But I give everything I have to this game. That’s not my incentive or motivation to play.”