Kaepernick will start over Gabbert in 49ers' game at Bills

Kaepernick will start over Gabbert in 49ers' game at Bills

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.”

John Lynch explains how Dee Ford can make 49ers defense dominant force

John Lynch explains how Dee Ford can make 49ers defense dominant force

PHOENIX — General manager John Lynch wants to make the 49ers' defense a dominant force in the NFL and he thinks the signing of Dee Ford can help him achieve that vision.

There are currently four first-round picks on the 49ers' defensive line; Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and now Ford.

Buckner had his best season in 2018, registering 12 sacks, 67 tackles, 44 of which were solo and 17 for a loss. He also recorded 20 quarterback hits. Lynch detailed how adding Ford will increase Buckner's productivity.  

“We felt we were just missing that edge piece,” Lynch said. “If we just had one guy there. It’s not like brain surgery. I think DeFo is a guy who has played at a high level but he’s had so many rushes that he hasn’t been able to finish because they aren’t getting it from the edge. 

“Now we have that. Dee is known, I think, for having the best first step in football coming off the edge. All of a sudden you have a tackle who doesn’t feel so good about hanging in here to help on DeForest because ‘If I do that Dee’s gone.’” 

Lynch doesn’t believe that the defensive line will be too crowded. The 49ers are very open to the idea of adding another first-round selection to the defensive line on April 25th. The defensive line room could potentially have Nick Bosa, Josh Allen or Quinnen Williams added to it on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. 

“I think there’s enough to go around,” Lynch said. “I think you want to be great at something. I think some people want to think that’s one guy. Well, for us, that’s always been collective.” 

There were games in 2018 when it seemed like a challenge to get every defensive lineman playing time.

Lynch explained the thought process behind the rotations. 

“We walked into a situation where there were some guys that had been drafted very high,” Lynch said. “I think two years in, we’re figuring out what everyone does best. What I would say is there is enough snaps to go around, but collectively we want to become a dominant force there, because we think that’s very important. It can really change the course of a game.”

[RELATED: 49ers considering all options with No. 2 overall pick]

Lynch has recently mentioned needing "closers" and "game changers" on the defense. He may not only have one of those in Ford, but he also may have just given the team their personality.

“You start to get excited about all those things,” Lynch said. “Those still have to come to fruition but I think we put the pieces in place. That’s the vision we have for that group.” 

NFL draft: 49ers considering all options, including trade of No. 2 pick

NFL draft: 49ers considering all options, including trade of No. 2 pick

PHOENIX – The 49ers have not necessarily narrowed down their list of potential targets for the No. 2 overall pick.

Although there is reason to believe former Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa tops the team’s list, the 49ers are still formulating a plan to consider all options, including potential trades, that could become available prior to next month’s draft.

The 49ers have six draft picks, including the No. 2 overall selection.

“We’re looking at a ton of people right there and kind of figuring out, ‘OK, if we’re here, this is what we’re doing,’ ” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “If not, we got to be prepared to understand who are the guys we like that we think can make us a better football team.”

The NFL owners meeting is a time when coaches and general managers can get together over a cold, icy or neat beverage to discuss different trade scenarios.

On the surface, the 49ers’ decision at No. 2 looks simple: Come up with two names, in order. If the Arizona Cardinals take the first player on the list at No. 1 overall, select the second guy on the list.

Boom! There you go.

But 49ers CEO Jed York said it’s imperative for Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and executive vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe to have a more detailed plan in place.

“We’re very, very happy with players who will be there at two,” York said. “And we need to be prepared, if somebody offers a trade that is too good to pass up, we need to know what we’ll do if we move back and what would we not take.

“You have to have that planned out beforehand because if you’re trying to figure all that stuff out, it’s OK in the second or third round, but when you’re the second pick in the draft, you can’t do that on the fly. It’s way, way too hard, so you need to get a sense of it.”

Bosa, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen are scheduled to visit the 49ers next month. Each is worthy of serious consideration for a high draft pick.

“You really want to come out of it with a player who is really going to be able to change the fortunes of your franchise,” Lynch said. “This year is a draft that’s very deep and there are also very good players at the top, so I think we’re in good position.”

The 49ers finished last season with a 4-12 record to be assigned the No. 2 overall pick. They need at least one difference-making player to make an immediate impact.

“I don’t expect to be drafting in the top two again, and if that’s the case, you have to add really, really talented players,” York said. “Or you have to get a ton of capital in order to move back, so you can make up for maybe not getting that No. 2 guy in the draft, but you’re getting a lot in return if you’re going to give up that opportunity.”

[RELATED: Lynch says McKinnon fits 49ers' plan for upcoming season]

The first wave of free agency has ended, and the attention shifts toward the three-day draft, which kicks off on April 25. The conversations at the owners meeting are an important part of the draft process.

“Things aren’t fully in focus, yet, in terms of what everybody is going to do,” York said. “But this week helps you at least get a better sense of that and just keep working toward your plan so you’re ready when the whistle blows come draft day.”