49ers' Kelly leaves door open for change at quarterback

49ers' Kelly leaves door open for change at quarterback

SANTA CLARA – Just minutes after the conclusion of the 49ers’ fourth consecutive loss, backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick was dressed and out the locker room door that leads to the parking lot.

Kaepernick remained on the sideline throughout the 49ers’ 33-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday at Levi’s Stadium. It was the fourth consecutive game in which he did not play. And he was the first player out of the building after another abysmal defeat.

Coach Chip Kelly has given starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert one vote of confidence after another. But for the first time, Kelly left the door open for the a possible change at quarterback when the 49ers return to practice on Tuesday to begin preparations to face the Buffalo Bills.

“We’re going to go and look at everything,” Kelly said. “We got a couple of days off, in terms of getting ready for Buffalo and we’ll assess the film.

“I think we’re going to look at everything. I mean, we’re 1-4. We need to make sure we’re going out there and giving us the best chance to win, so we’re going to look at everything.”

[MAIOCCO: Instant Replay: Fitz, Cardinals finish 49ers; skid hits four]

He will not like what he sees from an offense that generated just 286 total yards. And the 49ers’ passing game, which ranked last in the NFL in yards per game, could not even meet its lowly average of 178.8 yards from the first four games of the season.

Gabbert completed 18 of 31 passes for 162 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was also sacked seven times for minus-27 yards, including a late-game safety. Kelly said he did not consider an in-game change at quarterback on Thursday.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Gabbert said. “I let this team and this organization down tonight. I did not play good whatsoever. And that’s on me. I had two crucial turnovers that led to points for the Cardinals and that was the difference in the game right there.”

Gabbert said he fully understands that his poor play has created a situation in which the coaching staff must discuss the team's quarterback situation in the coming days.

[RELATED: Retired OL Davis conducts poll on 49ers starting QB]

“Yeah, I got to play better, there’s no question about that,” Gabbert said. “I have to do a better job leading this football team, executing this offense, scoring points, winning games. The whole nine yards. That’s just the way it goes. I have to play better.”

Gabbert won the starting job at the beginning of the regular season based on his body of work through the offseason program and training camp, Kelly said at the time. On Thursday, he said Gabbert has continued to be the team’s starting quarterback because he has been better than Kaepernick in practices.

“Yeah, Blaine has done a really nice job in practice, yes,” Kelly confirmed.

But, clearly, the 49ers have not been able to carry over any of the good things they might be showing in practice.

“It’s the entire offense,” Kelly said. “I’d expect us to execute well in practice. It’s a controlled environment. You’re in a lot of trouble if you’re not having a lot success in practice. We have to make sure we can take it to practice field to the game field, and we’re not doing that right now on the offensive side of the ball.”

Said Gabbert, “We just got to find ways to stay in that mode. It starts with the quarterback. I got to deliver the ball. I got to make the right reads. I got to deliver the football on time and accurately for us to be successful on offense.”

The sparse crowd at Levi’s Stadium made its feelings known on the team’s quarterback situation. In the third quarter, and the 49ers’ struggles continued to mount, there were loud chants of “We want Kap!”

Gabbert said he did not hear it.

“I’m focused on leading the 11 guys on the field,” Gabbert said. “When you’re in the game and in a situation like that, your focus on that play, that specific drive. So we’re all locked in and that’s it.”

The coaching staff and the coaching staff alone will make the decision on how to proceed at quarterback, Kelly said. He said general manager Trent Baalke will not have a voice in the process.

“Any decision that’s made with the current roster is a coaching staff thing,” Kelly said. “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 players on this football team, but he’s never once told me who has to play where and what the lineup is.”

NFL draft rumors: Nick Bosa early favorite to land with 49ers at No. 2


NFL draft rumors: Nick Bosa early favorite to land with 49ers at No. 2

Within the past week, the 49ers sent representatives to the pro days of Alabama, Ohio State, and Kentucky.

The 49ers own the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. If they hold onto that selection, there appear to be only three players who warrant serious consideration:

--Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams met with 49ers general manager John Lynch and vice president of player personnel Adam Peters early in the week in Tuscaloosa.

--On Wednesday, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa had a late lunch with Lynch and Peters in Columbus.

--Two days later, Kentucky outside linebacker and edge rusher Josh Allen spent some time with 49ers area scout Steve Rubio, who also attended Ohio State’s pro day and dined with Bosa.

None of the top players worked out, each opting to stand on his marks from the testing at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month. Williams, Bosa, and Allen are scheduled to make visits to Santa Clara to meet with the 49ers before the draft.

The consensus opinion at this stage appears to be that Bosa will end up with the 49ers. But a lot can happen between now and April 25, when the first round of the NFL draft is held in Nashville.

First, the 49ers can only select Bosa if the Arizona Cardinals pass him up to choose Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick.

The 49ers could still entertain the possibility of trading back to acquire more picks, but there would have to be a team willing to pay the price to move up.

[RELATED: John Lynch says free agency set up 49ers for the draft]

While in Columbus, Lynch said the 49ers are still in the preliminary stages of their draft evaluations. He said the team filled holes in free agency, which enables the 49ers to select the player they evaluate to be the best in the draft, regardless of position.

“We’ve done a lot of work on those guys,” Lynch said. “We’ve done a lot of work on the entire draft class, but it really gets hyper-focused now. We’ve condensed a lot of information. Now the coaches come up and we put it all together.”

Kwon Alexander will fill Reuben Foster's void, John Lynch believes

Kwon Alexander will fill Reuben Foster's void, John Lynch believes

49ers general manager John Lynch acknowledged that he signed Kwon Alexander to fill the void left by former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, who was released last season. 

In an interview with 49ers.com, Lynch spoke about how he and his staff brought back several familiar faces to the linebackers room. He was also very frank about what the team lost in Foster as a player. 

“Let’s be honest,” Lynch said. “We had a void that we thought we had filled with Reuben Foster. Things transpired there. We had a void there and that stinks but you can’t just sit there and pout, you gotta say ‘OK, let’s do something.'

“We needed a dynamic football player at that position. It’s a very critical position in our scheme and this became the guy. Kwon became the guy that we wanted to be that guy.” 

Alexander has many of the same on-field characteristics as Foster. He’s known as a hard hitter who flies around the field, making players think twice about going across the middle. He may make some mistakes in the game, but his passion and heart are recognized by his teammates. 

“I think what stood out to us with Kwon,” Lynch said, “he’s a dynamic football player. He’s a tone setter. You need tone-setters on your defense. 

“I think he’s a guy that when you watch him, when you talk to people who played against him, people who played with him, he’s exactly that. His type of play running all over the field, hitting people, getting the ball, it’s contagious. We need that.” 

The 49ers' admiration for Alexander grew as they did more research on him. They understand it may take some time before he returns to 100 percent health.

[RELATED: Kwon Alexander overcame tragedy, adversity]

“The more we watched him the more we liked,” Lynch said. “We knew he was coming off an ACL injury but we got comfortable with the medical part and also got comfortable with 'Hey, we are going to wait as long as it takes.' This is a long-term investment. He’s doing very well in his rehab.” 

The staff ideally would like to see Alexander lined up next to Fred Warner, who had a stand-out rookie season. They also brought back Elijah Lee, special teams contributor Mark Nzeocha, and signed ex-Panther David Mayo to a two-year contract to fill out the linebackers room.