Pros and cons: Our experts split on decision to bench Colin Kaepernick for Blaine Gabbert
The San Francisco 49ers' decision to bench Colin Kaepernick and replace him with Blaine Gabbert may be the spark the struggling quarterback needs to jumpstart his career.
Kaepernick, who guided the 49ers to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season, has had one of the more precipitous falls from grace in recent memory (cough, Robert Griffin III, cough).
Speculation on Kaepernick's future -- he signed a team-friendly six-year, $114 million contract before last season -- has begun, and two of FOX's NFL experts are torn.
"If you were going to bench Colin Kaepernick, you should have did it a few weeks ago. (Gabbert) is not that type of guy who can go out and give you that spark you're looking for," FOX Sports Live analyst Shawne Merriman said. "Blaine Gabbert is not your guy right now."
In the video above, Champ Bailey disagreed. He thinks the 49ers may actually be trying to salvage Kaepernick rather than discard him.
"I do like the decision to bench Colin Kaepernick," Bailey said. "It's not about Blaine Gabbert. It has nothing to do with him. It's all about Colin Kaepernick. Finding a way to take a step back.
"This is about long-term success for Kaepernick. ... He's their franchise quarterback."
Is there a way to fix Kaepernick?
"He made his money being a threat with his legs," Merriman said. "That's what they need to do more."
Kaepernick has been benched for his birthday, as he turns 28 on Tuesday. It was three years ago, in November 2012, when Kaepernick was promoted to replace Alex Smith. He wound up leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. Kaepernick made his first career start on Nov. 19, 2012, for former coach Jim Harbaugh.
Gabbert, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 draft, completed 23-of-28 passes for 203 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 108.8 passer rating in the preseason. He has stood by locker mate and friend Kaepernick, and they have regularly eaten lunch together, especially last week when a report said Kaepernick was alone "on an island" in the locker room.
Kaepernick is taking a seat at least this week for a franchise searching for any possible spark. The Niners are 2-6 overall and 0-3 in the NFC West. They have their bye week next week.
"It needs a jolt, and needs it from every position," fullback Bruce Miller said. "I know that we can play better at all 11 spots and until we do that and play together as a group, I think it's fair to say that every position is under review because we've got to play together as a group, not as individuals."
Kaepernick has passed for just 286 yards the last two games, raising questions for weeks now whether a big change was needed. Perhaps more than just the quarterback, too.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.