This is my Saturday column.
Do the San Francisco 49ers have a legitimate chance to beat the Atlanta Falcons Sunday? Will Blaine Gabbert turn the Niners’ season around? Is this the beginning of the Gabbert Era?
This is what you need to know about the Niners’ Week 9 matchup.
1. No, this is NOT the beginning of the Gabbert Era
And there never will be a Gabbert Era. Gabbert is not the answer. He would have been the Niners starting quarterback Week 1 if he were any better than Colin Kaepernick.
Call this a trial balloon with a long tether. The Niners will let Gabbert play one game, then they’ll have a full bye week plus another week of preparation to evaluate exactly what they want to do with their quarterbacks the rest of the season.
It’s possible Gabbert will play better this Sunday than Kaepernick has played the past couple of months. But, that’s a low bar to clear. Kaepernick has played terribly. Gabbert may play slightly better, but do we really expect him to play well?
Consider this: the Niners offense ranked dead last in the league even when it had Carlos Hyde, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Now, Davis is out — he’s a Denver Bronco. Hyde also is out — he’s nursing a stress fracture in his foot. And Boldin may be out — he’s nursing a hamstring injury, and is doubtful for Sunday’s game.
Gabbert also won’t have the backup running backs — Reggie Bush or Mike Davis. Those two had surgeries last week. So, the Niners will have three new running backs — Kendall Gaskins, Pierre Thomas and Shaun Draughn.
And we haven’t even gotten to the offensive line, such as it is. Right guard still is a disaster with Jordan Devey and Andrew Tiller splitting time. And the center, Marcus Martin, might be the weakest offensive lineman in the NFL. He won’t all of a sudden gain strength and stop getting blown back into the quarterback’s lap.
This is the worst offensive lineup in the league. Go get ’em, Blaine.
2. The Atlanta Falcons defense is NOT “weak”
Kyle McLorg of BayAreaSportsGuy.com broke this story when the 49ers benched Kaepernick. Here’s what McLorg tweeted:
“Source: 49ers were going to do this last week, but decided to wait so that Gabbert could debut against a weak Falcons defense at home.”
Weak? Oh, really?
McLorg must have had an inkling the 49ers’ front office believes that about Atlanta’s defense.
Does anyone in the Niners’ front office have a clue about what constitutes weak or strong in the NFL? General manager Trent Baalke struggles to draft players who even contribute on the field. His specialty is the inactive list and the Injured Reserve. Talk about weak.
Here’s what Baalke and the rest of the front office may not realize: The Falcons’ defense ranks 11th, and currently has six very good players — defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, and defensive ends Vic Beasley, Tyson Jackson and Adrian Clayborn.
Not to mention an excellent, young head coach who was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks the past two seasons — Dan Quinn.
The Falcons are coming off a loss and need to win on Sunday. So, don’t bet the ranch on the Niners, even if the front office thinks the Falcons defense is weak. I’d be surprised if Vegas still has this game on their boards.
3. Even Geep Chryst does NOT sound confident
How do we know the Niners are going to lose this Sunday? Easy, just read through the transcript of offensive coordinator Geep Chryst’s Week 9 press conference. He paved the road for the outcome of Sunday’s game. Here’s what he said.
Chryst excerpt No. 1: “Reggie (Bush) went down. Mike Davis went down. So, guys had to step up. That affects what we’re doing in terms of the game plan for this week and who we have playing.”
Chryst excerpt No. 2: “I think that the vision that we had of what this offense would be or maybe how we would contribute to a victory was what we saw in the Minnesota game. And then one by one, some of those elements, take Carlos Hyde for example, which was a critical element, they’re no longer out there.”
Chryst excerpt No. 3: “As a coach, you know the hand you’re dealt.”
In case you haven’t noticed, Chryst was waving the white flag. Based on his comments, don’t be surprised when the Niners lose on Sunday. Chryst laid out a path where each stone along the way is another excuse or reason for losing. Sounds like a guy who knows he’s on his way out. Don’t be surprised if he gets fired after the Niners lose big this Sunday.
Chryst, an intelligent man, is setting us up. No matter what happens in the game, we can’t criticize him. We can only praise him and if he gets fired, mourn his passing.
Right. Good try, Geep.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.