SANTA CLARA -- Colin Kaepernick has regained his role as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
Coach Chip Kelly announced on Tuesday that Kaepernick will replace Blaine Gabbert when the 49ers return to action Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, New York.
Kelly said he informed both quarterbacks of the decision Tuesday morning before meeting with the media at the team's headquarters. Kelly said he wanted to make the move early in the week to properly prepare Kaepernick for the starting job. Gabbert will remain in uniform as the 49ers' No. 2 quarterback, Kelly said.
“You got to distribute the reps,” Kelly said. “You can’t go all week long and say, ‘We’re going to make a move on Saturday,’ and then say, ‘Colin didn’t get enough reps with the ones.’”
The decision to move Kaepernick back into the starting lineup comes at a time when there is a new contract proposal on the table that would eliminate a $14.5 million injury guarantee for next season while voiding the final four years of his contract. The deal would also reportedly convert bonus money for the remainder of this season into a guarantee.
As of Tuesday morning, Kaepernick has yet to sign the contract. Kelly said the contract situation had no bearing on his decision.
“I don’t deal with contracts,” Kelly said. “It’s a football decision. I don’t even know where his contract status is. That’s a question for him. But I’ve never discussed his contract, nor will I discuss his contract.”
Gabbert started the first five games of the season for the 49ers (1-4). The 49ers rank 31st in the NFL in passing yards, averaging 170.0 yards per game. Only the Bills (169.4) are worse.
Gabbert won the starting job in training camp. But he failed to solidify his spot on the depth chart. The 49ers are currently mired in a four-game losing streak.
Only Arizona backup quarterback Drew Stanton has a lower yards-per-attempt average than Gabbert’s 5.9-yard average among the 44 quarterbacks who have completed passes this season. Gabbert’s 69.6 passer rating ranks next-to-last in the NFL ahead of only Ryan Fitzpatrick of the New York Jets.
The players were off four days while the coaches met and discussed the topic, Kelly said.
“We were very analytical and sat down as a staff, watched the tape and went over everything,” Kelly said. “We’ve had a couple of days to kind of digest everything, where we are. I think offensively. It’s not Blaine’s fault. As a group, offensively, we need to be better in a lot of ways.”
Kaepernick took over as the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2012 when Alex Smith originally left the lineup due to a concussion. Kaepernick started 47 consecutive regular season games before getting benched at the midway point of last season.
The 49ers are 27-20 in regular-season games in which Kaepernick has started. The team is also 4-2 in the playoffs with him at quarterback, including a Super Bowl run at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
Kelly has talked throughout the early portion of the season about Kaepernick’s weight and strength. Kaepernick lost considerable weight during his offseason rehabilitation from shoulder, knee and thumb surgeries.
“We can let that go,” Kelly said. “He, physically, is not where he was pre-injury. Before that, he was little bit bigger, a little bit faster, a little bit stronger. He will admit that. He’s worked as hard as anybody I’ve ever been around in terms of his rehab. That’s the only point I’ve ever tried to make since Day 1.”