The San Francisco 49ers have finally made one of the most discussed moves in the NFL -- they benched Colin Kaepernick, according to a report from Kyle McLorg. That means Blaine Gabbert, who has a career record of 5-22 as a starter, will be behind center for the Week 9 game against the Atlanta Falcons.
On Wednesday, head coach Jim Tomsula confirmed that Gabbert would start, but stressed that it was not a permanent move and instead would be decided on a week-to-week basis.
"I felt like this was the direction we need to go," Tomsula said. "In no way is 2-6 all on Colin Kaepernick."
Kaepernick's quarterback rating is at a career-worst 78.8 and has dropped in each of his four years as a starter after peaking in 2012 at 98.3. He has also put up career-worst numbers in both touchdown percentage and interception percentage as the Niners have started 2-6, including a 27-6 loss to the Rams last week.
Gabbert hasn't started a game since 2013, when he went 0-3 for the Jaguars with seven interceptions and just one touchdown. Chad Henne finished the season, going 4-9, so while it wasn't a great team, there was more there than Gabbert got out of it.
Gabbert and Henne had also split the job in 2012, with the former going 1-9 in his 10 starts, but with nine touchdowns as opposed to six interceptions. He joined the 49ers as Kaepernick's backup in 2014 and only appeared in one game, throwing seven passes in mop-up duty in a lopsided loss to Denver. This year, he has yet to see action.
San Francisco's struggles can't all be blamed on Kaepernick -- the offensive line has struggled badly to protect him against the pass rush -- and there's no reason to think that Gabbert gives the Niners a better chance to win.
However, much like Robert Griffin III in Washington, the 49ers have a large financial incentive to keeping Kaepernick healthy. As long as he is unhurt, the team can release him before April 1 without taking a massive hit to its salary cap. If he gets hurt, his 2016 salary would become guaranteed.
Gabbert is less mobile, so he'll be a sitting duck behind San Francisco's porous line, but he's considered expendable in what is already a lost season.