Coach Chip Kelly said Monday morning that no decision has been made who will start at quarterback for the 49ers in the team’s upcoming game at the Buffalo Bills.
“We’ll get together as a staff today and look at our game plan, in terms of moving forward or what we’re going to do everywhere,” Kelly said on Monday morning on the “Murph and Mac” show on KNBR.
“We got to evaluate everything, and part of it is looking at what kind of game plan we’re going to put together for the Bills, and meet with our training staff and find out who’s available and go from there.”
Blaine Gabbert started the 49ers’ first five games of the season. Colin Kaepernick has served as the team’s No. 2 quarterback since the opening of the regular season. Kelly said the 49ers’ problems are widespread. He did not single out Gabbert as the blame for the team’s offense, which ranks 31st in the NFL.
“It’s fair to say we’re looking at every option we have to be a good football team,” Kelly said. “I don’t think it’s different than any other position on our team. Obviously, that position gets the most notoriety, but I think we have to look at everything right now.”
The players have been off since the team’s 33-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night. The team returns to work on Tuesday to begin preparations to face Buffalo. At that time, Kelly is likely to reveal the plan for the week.
Kelly denied the suggestion that Kaepernick’s contract status has any bearing on his availability. The 49ers have proposed a new contract that would eliminate a $14.5 million injury guarantee for Kaepernick for 2017, if he were to sustain a serious injury. In return, the 49ers would tear up the final four years of his contract, making Kaepernick eligible for unrestricted free agency in March.
“I don’t get that part of it because he played in our first game,” Kelly said. “So I’ve never been told not to play him or he shouldn’t play. If I was told not to play him, then why did he play in the first game against the Rams if I was concerned about his contract and him getting hurt?
“It’s never been an issue.”
Kaepernick has been eligible to play in the first five games of the season as part of the team’s 46-man game day roster. The team’s No. 3 quarterback, Christian Ponder, has not suited up. Therefore, if Gabbert had to leave a game for any reason in the first five games, Kaepernick would have been called upon to play.
Kaepernick saw action late in the 49ers’ 28-0 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in the opener. He took three snaps and handed off three times in his only game action of the season.
Kelly also said that Kaepernick’s weight is not the reason he has remained as the 49ers’ backup behind Gabbert. Last week, Kelly confirmed Gabbert has simply performed better in practices.
“There’s no weight limit he has to get to, whether he plays or doesn’t play,” Kelly said. “The point was is where is he in his rehabilitation. And I answered that question, and people ran with that and said, ‘If he doesn’t weight 225, he’s not going to play.’ This isn’t Pop Warner. There is no weight limit, in terms of him playing.
“The point I’m trying to make is, I think Colin has worked extremely hard at the rehab part of what he’s done. I think what people lose sight of is Kap missed all of last season from when he got hurt and through the rehab process because he had shoulder surgery, thumb surgery and knee surgery that prevented him from working out the way he normally works out.”
Kelly added, “Since he’s been cleared to go, when we got back here in August, he’s worked his tail off. He’s as hard-a-working guy as we have on our team, in terms of everything and what he has put into this thing. So there is no, 'If he gets to a certain weight, he plays.' When I’m asked the question, 'Where’s he at in his rehab?' He’s not back to where he was when he was leading this team to the Super Bowl. That’s my only point.”
Gabbert has failed to solidify his hold on the team’s starting position as the 49ers have lost four consecutive games after the opening-game win over the Rams. Of the 44 quarterbacks in the league who have completed passes this season, only Arizona backup quarterback Drew Stanton has a lower yards-per-attempt average. Gabbert and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco are tied for No. 42 with a 5.9-yard average. Ryan Fitzpatrick of the New York Jets is the only regular starter with a passer rating lower than Gabbert’s 69.6.
Kelly repeatedly declined to blame Gabbert for the 49ers’ struggles.
“We just have to work on being more consistent,” Kelly said. “I think that’s overall. That’s not just the quarterback position, that’s every single person. You have to look at it, as a whole. If it was just one person, it would be an easy deal. But it’s not just one person. Are the receivers running the right routes? Is the offensive line in the right protection? Are we hitting the hole the right way?
“There are so many different factors that go into being successful on the offensive side of the ball that people can look at one position and say, ‘Let’s blame that person.’ But that’s not what we do, and I don’t think any coach does that. I think you look at the totality of what you’re trying to do on the offensive side of the ball. All 11 guys contribute to your success. Or all 11 guys contribute to your lack of success.”