San Francisco 49ers: Benching Colin Kaepernick is the wrong move


It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Colin Kaepernick hitting the bench for the San Francisco 49ers after another rough outing against the St. Louis Rams. It’s a move that was expected to come down soon as the season continues to nosedive. However, there’s many reasons why it’s a bad decision, and it joins a huge list of terrible choices made by an organization that’s struggling to find their identity.

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Kapernick completed less than 50 percent of his passes (20-of-41) for 162 yards and no touchdowns in the loss. While he hasn’t thrown a pick in the last four games, the last two outings have been subpar. Accuracy continues to be a problem. As soon as Jim Tomsula wouldn’t clarify if Kaepernick would be the starter this week, you knew there was a potential change coming.

If the quarterback is struggling, why is it a bad idea to sit him? The biggest problem is who San Francisco has on the bench. Blaine Gabbert is a failed 2011 first round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was thrown into the fire when David Garrard and Luke McCown weren’t performing well, and his play didn’t make the team any better. Gabbert is 5-22 as a starter with a 53.2 percent passing completion rate and a negative touchdown-to-interception ratio (23 TDs, 24 INTs).

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The timing of the change is also weird. An Atlanta Falcons team comes into San Francisco with an exposed defense in their last two losses. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk ponders why they didn’t wait until the bye next week, and then explains his thoughts on the situation.

"The decision to send him to the bench likely means the 49ers are done with Kaepernick, and that he’ll be traded or cut before April 1, when his 2016 base salary becomes fully guaranteed. If that’s the case, and given that he has more than $31 million guaranteed for injury from 2016 through 2018, the decision to bench Kaepernick could represent a decision to put him in bubble wrap for the balance of the season."

Sep 20, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert (2) warms up before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 43-18. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There’s rumblings whether the 49ers will go back to Kaepernick, but don’t buy into them. Benching him means that they are ready to move on, and there’s way too much risk for Kaepernick to get more money in the team-friendly contract if he’s injured. Also, it wouldn’t fix the problem because the coaching staff doesn’t know how to do it.

It’s pretty clear that Kaepernick, who is a natural gunslinger, feels comfortable when he’s able to run the ball and not be in the pocket. The team would be better served to adapt to this offensively, but they’re instead just going to install a worse quarterback into a flawed system.

Perhaps the 49ers will find instant success with Gabbert — maybe they’ll even defeat the Falcons when it gives the team a boost on offense with slightly better accuracy. But any long term success won’t happen. In fact, it guarantees a better draft pick as ESPN’s Football Power Index predicts the 49ers are worse off with Gabbert than a struggling Kaepernick.

Perhaps even more inferior than Kaepernick’s passing is the 49ers organization that continues to embarrass itself. This situation was handled just as badly as the divorce with Jim Harbaugh with constant leaks and players willing to anonymously talk to reporters and bang on teammates. It’s just another bad move in a series of head-scratching decisions for this franchise.

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Before, Harbaugh was to blame because he didn’t win a Super Bowl and the offense got worse. Well, the offense is further fallen into the abyss and Kaepernick has become the scapegoat. It appears that San Francisco will likely be more busy trying to find their next victim — somebody on the coaching staff, Gabbert, or Trent Baalke — than try to win football games.