NFL AM: Colin Kaepernick Benched For Blaine Gabbert


49ers bench Colin Kaepernick:

Once upon a time Blaine Gabbert was the 10th-overall pick in the NFL draft while Colin Kaepernick had to wait until Round 2 to be drafted by the San Francisco 49ers.

While Gabbert fizzled out quickly in Jacksonville, starting just 27 games in three seasons for the Jaguars, Kaepernick went on to early success, leading the 49ers to two consecutive NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance.

It was concerns about Kaepernick’s ability to read NFL defenses and play an NFL brand of football which caused him to fall into the 2nd-round of the 2011 NFL draft, but former Niners’ coach Jim Harbaugh did a remarkable job of hiding those deficiencies and making Kaepernick not only look sufficient, but look like one of the better young quarterbacks in football.

Kaepernick took over as the 49ers’ starting quarterback after taking the job from starter Alex Smith during the 2012 season. In his first two full years as the starter, Kaepernick threw 40 touchdowns with 18 interceptions between 2013 and 2014.

This season Kaepernick and the Niners are off to a 2-6 start, and he has looked awful with the exception of the Niners match-ups with the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens. In San Francisco’s first eight games this season, he has thrown for less than 200 yards five times, throwing for less than 100 yards in one of those games.

At the end of the day, the NFL isn’t about yardage, it’s about touchdowns, and the 49ers haven’t found the end zone often enough in 2015. Through the team’s first eight games, Kaepernick has thrown for just 6 touchdowns with 5 interceptions.

While Kaepernick being on pace for 10 interceptions is something the 49ers could likely live with, being on pace for 12 touchdowns is not. To put it in perspective, Drew Brees threw for seven touchdowns and Eli Manning threw for six when the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints played on Sunday.

Now that the 49eers have decided that Kaepernick isn’t the answer at quarterback, they’ve decided to hand the reins over to Gabbert.

Gabbert threw 12 touchdown passes during his 14 starts his rookie season.  The same number of touchdowns that Kaepernick was on pace to throw for this season until Jim Tomsula decided it was time to make a change at the quarterback position.

Like many quarterbacks drafted early in the first round, Gabbert was a victim of being on a bad football team, with a bad offensive line during his short time in Jacksonville. Regardless of the Jaguars’ shortcomings, there just weren’t enough flashes of brilliance to have a lot of belief that he’ll be any better of an answer for the 49ers at the position long term.

It looks like there will be a lot of turnover in San Francisco again this offseason, with many positions to fill, and it looks pretty certain that finding an answer at the most important position will be among the decisions to be made.

Browns likely to have Manziel under center on Thursday night:

He no longer wants to be “Johnny Football,” or “Money Manziel,” but Cleveland Browns second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel will likely be called the one thing he wants to be called when the Browns take the field in Cincinnati Thursday night, the Browns’ starter.

With veteran starter Josh McCown dealing with a rib injury he says likely won’t heal for a few weeks, this could be Manziel’s opportunity to prove he can be the guy. An opportunity the Browns seem very reluctant to give him.

Sunday, the Browns waited until the game was out of hand to put Manziel into the action despite the fact that McCown was clearly dragging his badly battered body around the football field in very obvious pain.

The whole situation has been very confusing. When you get past the silly suggestion that the Browns could actually make the playoffs this season, there’s no reason to play McCown over Manziel.

Here’s the one thing you know for sure about the Browns quarterbacks. McCown is old, and he’s never going to be the future of the Browns. Outside of an extra victory or two (which may hurt the Browns draft stock more than help them in any way) there’s no value in playing McCown.

After moving back up into the first-round of the 2014 NFL Draft to select Manziel, the least the Browns could do is give the young man a legitimate shot to get comfortable at the position. Manziel has shown nothing that leads you to believe that he’s going to turn into a great quarterback, but he hasn’t been given much of a chance either.

Manziel is certainly to blame for this team’s lack of confidence in him as a leader and quarterback, but eventually you just have to see if you can make the investment work.

While it seems the Browns are very reluctant to put Manziel under center, this injury to McCown might be the crack he needs to show enough to convince the team to give him a more extended look. If Manziel can help lead the Browns to an upset victory over the undefeated, division leading Bengals on Thursday Night Football, he might just finally get his shot.

Win or lose, if Manziel can show that he can look comfortable on an NFL football field, against one of the best teams in football, he should get the shot to prove whether or not he’s worthy of a continued investment into his future with the Browns. Because, as Cleveland  should have realized by now, McCown is not the future, and leaving him in there for an extra win or two when you could be figuring out if the guy you drafted in the first round a season ago is the future, is just foolish.

Pep Hamilton fired as Colts offensive coordinator:

Nobody thought replacing Bruce Arians was going to be easy, but the optimism around the Indianapolis Colts when the team hired Pep Hamilton to fill Arians’ shoes after Arians took the Arizona Cardinals head coaching gig was very high.

After all, Hamilton had coached Andrew Luck at Stanford, and that went well enough that Luck was the 1st– overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

This season hasn’t gone so well, and with head coach Chuck Pagano on the hot seat, he’s decided to make a move to try to put a spark in his offense.

While the Colts are just 3-5, they are still tied for first place in the awful AFC South, so any kind of turnaround could still propel the Colts into a playoff run. Pagano knows that his defense isn’t going to be the side of the ball that catches fire and turns the season around, so he decided to make a move on the offensive side of the ball.

“Through the first eight weeks of the season, we have felt our offense hasn’t performed at the consistent level that we need,” Pagano said in a statement. “Because of this we’ve decided to go in a different direction and relieve Pep Hamilton of his duties as offensive coordinator. As head coach of this team, it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m doing everything we can to put us in the best position to succeed. We thank Pep for his service to the team and wish him all the best.”

Colts associate head coach Rob Chudzinski will take over as offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season. If the Colts offense doesn’t turn it around under Chudzinski, he’ll likely join the rest of the staff and Pagano on the unemployment line.

About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.