On Monday the San Francisco 49ers benched starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick after a poor first half of the season. Backup Blaine Gabbert will take over the starting role. But does benching Kaepernick actually make sense? Kaepernick has severely regressed since breaking onto the scene in 2012/2013. His career trajectory has resembled that of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. The two resemble each other even more with Kaepernick’s benching. Kaepernick’s confidence and awareness seem to have failed him this season. On Sunday against the Rams and backed up into his own endzone, Kaepernick failed to see an uncovered Torrey Smith on the outside, instead choosing to run the ball straight at the Rams for minimal gain. So far this season, Kaepernick has completed 59.3% of his passes for 1615 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. Kaepernick has also been at the centre of discord in the 49ers locker room.
Veteran tight end Vernon Davis argued with offensive lineman Joe Staley regarding Kaepernick’s struggles. Davis has since been traded to the Denver Broncos. Kaepernick is reportedly “alone on an island” in the locker room, according to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer. His benching reinforces that claim. Kaepernick’s confidence is reportedly “completely shot”, and being benched won’t help matters. Gabbert meanwhile has had time to learn San Francisco’s offense without the pressure of having to start. Gabbert is also more of a traditional pocket passer than Kaepernick, who often breaks and runs at the first sign of trouble. But there are reasons why Gabbert, a former first-round pick, has been mired in a backup role since arriving in San Francisco last year. Kaepernick is a better athlete and is also more durable.
Jim Tomsula made a win-now decision to try and save his job, and some time away from the field could help Kaepernick. This is likely the final nail in the coffin for Kaepernick’s time in San Francisco. He is a free agent at the end of the year, and has been the subject of trade speculation by multiple pundits. The 49ers are unlikely to retain Kaepernick, and he will likely be looking for new pastures for next season. A change of scenery will likely do Kaepernick some good. But for now, he will watch at least the next few games from the 49ers’ bench.