The do-or-die point for Blaine Gabbert’s 2016 is here

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 29: Blaine Gabbert #2 of the San Francisco 49ers looks to pass against the Arizona Cardinals during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

If Blaine Gabbert can’t play well enough to avoid the 49ers’ fourth straight loss Thursday night, he no longer deserves the starting job.

He might already be at that point, in your mind, which is completely fair. Gabbert at his worst has been awful and pretty ‘meh’ at his best.

He ranks 30th in quarterback rating (73.1), 29th in completion percentage (58) and 32nd – dead last – in yards per attempt (6.1).

Never during his 4-8 run as the 49ers starting quarterback has Gabbert looked like the long-term solution. San Francisco is in quarterback purgatory, which is the worst place an NFL team can be.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you plan on watching this team for the remainder of the season) the 49ers will likely draft high enough to find their next franchise signal caller, if they’re smart enough to make it a priority in the upcoming draft.

Whatever glass-half-full approach San Francisco took with Gabbert this offseason is emptying quickly. That became apparent Sunday when the team fell to 1-3 mostly because of Gabbert’s terrible fourth-quarter interception that should have been a Torrey Smith 55-yard go-ahead touchdown.

Defenses have never been threatened in any serious way with Gabbert on the field. They’re content with covering Smith deep and giving Gabbert all he wants underneath.

Stopping San Francisco starts with slowing Carlos Hyde and the running game. And Gabbert hasn’t been good enough to decongest the box and give Hyde running room with any consistency. San Francisco is averaging 3.6 yards per carry, 25th in the league.

Another obvious 49ers problem: they don’t have the play makers to make defenders miss after Gabbert hits his targets on short throws well short of the sticks – his bread and butter.

San Francisco is the second-worst team in the NFL in yards after the catch. Related: the 49ers rank dead last in passing yards. Bradley Pinion has punted more than all punters but one.

If San Francisco falls to 1-4 with another uninspiring performance from Gabbert, give Colin Kaepernick a go. The 49ers have a mini bye this weekend thanks to their Thursday night game, which should give Kaepernick some extra time to acclimate to a starting role.

Arizona is wounded without Carson Palmer and beatable with a defense that ranks 20th in the NFL against the run. If Gabbert can’t take care of business and play well enough to win – at home, on a short week – then it’s time to try Kaepernick next week in Buffalo.

 

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