Coach Chip Kelly said the staff was not going to meet about the issue on Thursday night after the 33-21 loss to Arizona given that their next game was more than a week away. Blaine Gabbert was 18-of-31 for 162 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions — numbers that, according to Kelly, did not even warrant consideration for benching on Thursday.
“I don’t think tonight we’re going to talk about that,” Kelly told reporters after the game. “We’re going to go and look at everything. We’ve got a couple days off here in terms of getting ready for Buffalo and then we’ll assess it and move from there. But we’re not talking about it at this point in a game that’s 10 days from now. I understand you have to ask the question, I understand that, but right now, we’re not going to have that conversation right now.”
Kelly said the quarterback position will certainly be part of the conversation moving forward.
“I think we’re going to look at everything,” he said. “We’re 1-4, we’ve got to make sure we’re going out there and giving us the best chance to win. So we’re going to look at everything.”
The last time the pro-Kaepernick crowd hit a fevered pitch, Kelly said that the 28-year-old with 10,030 career passing yards was not yet healthy enough to take the field after a series of offseason surgeries. By the time the Bills game rolls around, that excuse will be a little more than two weeks old and Kaepernick will have had a chance to reasonably overtake Gabbert in practice.
Tin foil hat-wearing 49ers fans suggesting that Kaepernick will never play because of the details of his contract — a career-ending injury this season would set into motion roughly $ 20 million in guaranteed injury payouts — aren’t aware that the 49ers are covered for that amount via an insurance policy for almost the same amount.
Kelly hinted on Thursday that general manager Trent Baalke will have no bearing on who starts moving forward.
“Any decision that’s made with the current roster is a coaching staff thing. Trent has never come in and said, ‘This guy has to play or that guy has to play.’ Trent does a great job of acquiring talent and getting football players on this team,” Kelly said. “But he has never told me once who has to play where and what the lineup is and all that.”
With all of that said, next Sunday in Orchard Park seems like the most likely place to make a change if Kelly is going to make one at all. Gabbert may look better in practice, but that clearly isn’t translating on Sunday.