Blaine Gabbert: “My job on third-and-long is to find some type of completion.”

This is the transcript of Blaine Gabbert’s Tuesday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.


Any changes this week for you just with the different schedule as far as the holiday goes?

“No. I think sticking to your routine is extremely important in weeks like this, especially with the holiday on Friday. Still preparing the same way, still going about your normal routine because we still have a job to do on Sunday regardless of if it’s a holiday or not. We have to go out there and perform on Sunday in Detroit. So, sticking to my routine Monday through Saturday is what the plan is.”


Did you watch last night’s game?

“No, I did not. It’s tough to watch games on TV. You don’t really see the angles that you really need to see to evaluate a team. So, that process today is watching film and getting started on the game plan.”


After going back through Sunday’s game, what stood out to you in terms of the struggles on third down?

“I think, just like what I said after the game, we were in third-and-12, third-and-15 and the percentages of converting those are low, especially when you’re taking penalties on second down to put yourself in third-and-15. And it was just more of us shooting ourselves in the foot than anything. When we’re in third-and-seven to eight rather than third-and-15, we’re going to convert a lot higher percentage than we are right now.”


When you check down on some of those plays, are there options downfield that aren’t there, that the defense is taking away and you’re settling for those? Or could play calling perhaps be more aggressive on those throws?

“No, it’s what the defense is playing. They know what we’re trying to do on third-and-15. We’re trying to get to the sticks. So, that’s the coverage that they’re going to play. They’re going to drop everybody right there at the marker and like I said, make you throw underneath so then they can rally and make a tackle. So, my job on third-and-long is to find some type of completion. Whether it be past the sticks or underneath the sticks, just get the ball in our guys’ hands and let them make a play.”


Once you’re on the sideline and as these third-and-long situations keep coming up, do you leave that up to the coaches to remind your teammates not to get in those positions or do you get involved?

“I think everybody realizes it. We just have to do a better job on focusing on second down and not taking penalties there, especially versus a defense like we faced last week. They were giving us a bunch of exotic looks, so we had to use a double count. It just ends up being on the players. We got to focus at a higher level and execute at a higher level on first and second down so we’re in third-and-manageable.”


I think you’re leaning toward those third down plays, you don’t want to force it because the likelihood of making a dramatic error is so much greater. Is that what you’re saying?

“Yeah. It’s all predicated on what the defense does. We’re not hitting check downs because we want to. It’s what they’re dictating us to do. When they have eight guys at the sticks taking away our throws, it’s not good football to force it, especially in the first and second quarter. Third and fourth quarter, you may have to get a little more sporty with your throw and give your guys a shot. But, especially early on in the game, you want to find completions, you want to get everybody in the rhythm, in the flow of the game. So, you’ve seen guys hit check downs that go for 25-yards. I love using the example when [Baltimore Ravens QB] Joe Flacco hit [RB] Ray Rice, I think it was fourth-and-25 in the playoffs and he got 26-yards and they go on to win the Super Bowl. So, our guys have the ability to do that. It’s just my job to give them the football.”


In the fourth quarter, the pass you made, would that have been a throw that you would of made in the first and second quarter?

“I just wanted to give [WR] Jerome [Simpson] a chance. It’s a one-on-one shot. We call it 50-50 balls and the ball just wasn’t bouncing our way. But, those are shots that I’m willing to take. We needed a big play there. We needed a touchdown in that situation and that’s a throw that I’m content with. It didn’t turn out our way but at the end of day, we gave our guy a shot and just didn’t bounce our way.”


The offensive line has come under a lot of scrutiny all year. I’m just curious, today’s the Pro Bowl stuff and T Joe Staley’s gone to the last four. So, whether he makes it or not, I’m just curious what you see and how well he’s played at left tackle?

“Joe’s done a tremendous job and he’s been a tremendous player for the last, I think this is his ninth year. The consistency that he brings day in and day out, the work ethic that he brings to the practice field is second-to-none. So, when you have a guy leading like that on the offensive line and it shows the young guys how to approach daily work. He’s done a great job. Our entire offensive line had a tough task last week and they played tremendous. Those guys fought their tails off and gave me plenty of time to do my job.”


There was a play in the Browns game where you and Jerome weren’t on the same page. In this last game, it looked like there were a couple plays where WR Torrey Smith kind of cut his route short. What goes on on those plays? Are those option routes and how much communication do you have–?

“Yeah, it’s just communication, especially in a two-minute drill, that I’m calling the plays out. We just got to do a better job communicating the plays and everybody’s got to be on it. Eleven guys have to be on the same page for any play to work and like I said, that just goes into playing consistent football throughout the entire game. There’s always going to be plays like that in a game but we’re just doing out best to minimize those and eliminate them from the game.”


Question about another tackle, OL Trent Brown. Have you ever had a larger teammate than him?

“No. Trent’s a big guy. And he came in and did a tremendous job last week when he was forced in there in the fourth quarter. I think that’s something that he can build on moving forward, coming in, playing against two top tier defensive ends and holding his own.”


He has, obviously, mammoth arms as far as length. He’s got pretty good feet it seems like. I know you don’t want to go too crazy about him because he’s just kind of getting his feet wet, but do you see some tools there that he could be a legitimate starter?

“No question. He has all the physical attributes and being a young guy in the NFL, it’s kind of that maturation process that the young guys go through. He’s getting better on a daily basis and that’s what you look for. He came in and stepped right up and didn’t miss a beat when he was in the game last week. Gave us a little juice up there and definitely think that’s something he can build off moving forward.”


When he comes in, given his inexperience, do you say anything to him?

“No. I think I just said, ‘Trent, let’s go have some fun.’ I cracked a little smile and went about his business as usual. But, no, it was good to have him in there and good to get his feet wet a little bit.”

You and RB Shaun Draughn came in the starting lineup at the same time and he’s been one of your most targeted guys. If he can’t go Sunday or the remainder of the year, how big of a loss would that be for you, just considering the chemistry you guys have?

“Yeah, Shaun’s done a tremendous job but like I’ve always said, injuries are a part of the game. You never want them to happen to a friend and a teammate but at the same time, it’s the next man up mentality. So, the running backs in that room are eager to step up and fill that void if he can’t go, but I hope he heals quickly and we have him back out there.

  1. i can’t believe the Niners (and Gabbert) are still trying to defend their hyper-conservative play calling and decision making
    i understand that the team wants to be a run first team. that’s fine. run on first down for 4 yards. run on second down for 4 yards and covert on 3rd and short. that’s fine if it works. but you gotta have a plan B for when it doesn’t work (which is often). it’s obvious to the rest of us that when it’s 3rd and long (and you no longer have an elite defense) that you have to try to convert 3rd and long.

    the philosophical idea that trying convert 3rd and long is too dangerous (picks and sacks) and that the reason things did work out is because you couldn’t execute on 1st and 2nd down is just stupid. it’s like being down by 2 TDs in the 4th quarter and deciding to punt because…well you should have scored more points in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters. i mean who does that???…..oh wait…uh…uh….

    1. Nobody believed in the run game more than Bill Walsh. However, he ran after he had the lead, he ran in the second half to protect the lead and keep the ball. We are trying to run the ball like Parcells ran it and we are only pale version of the 90’s giants (an offense that is decades behind the times and only works when all your players are light years better than the opponents).

      Baalke has worn out his welcome. But we are stuck with him.

    2. They are a run oriented offense that can’t run. Chryst is incapable of deviating from the plan that is drawn up during the week and countering what a defense is doing to stop them.

      1. It’s true, you can’t be afraid to punt. In most circumstances that’s a far better option than taking a shot and giving up a pick.

        Tomsula made that comment because he chose to punt instead of going for it on 4th down. Different circumstance.

          1. It’s not anything new.

            The problem is that they are losing and the offense looks completely inept.

            The previous HC also had a very conservative approach but they were winning so it was kind of a moot point.

            1. Jack:

              I agree that it is part of an overall game plan – but for these guys they simply will not deviate from their game plans. So to me what that statement really means is that they will not let a repeated negative outcome (in this case punting) cause them to deviate from a failed game plan. That’s what I took it to mean.

              1. Cubus,

                The strange part is they really have no identity. They want to be a running/play action team, but they can’t run consistently so teams don’t have to respect it which allows them to just tee off on every play.

                As much as we all want to rip the coaches, it all truly starts with Baalke. He’s the one who put this roster together and the offensive line is atrocious. Bill Walsh couldn’t get this offense going with the guys they have up front.

              2. I agree that Baalke is the main culprit, but after that Chris Forester hasn’t had these guys on the same page since training camp. Then you look at Chryst/Tomsula’s inability to move guys around and put the players in a better situation to succeed.
                The Chiefs had major issues on offense at the beginning of the year, especially their oline and they made some moves in moving people around and look at them now. Our coaching staff hasn’t made any quality personnel moves all year and that’s why they are incompetent and should not be back next year.

              3. The O line has sunk this team. The stubborn insistence to start Pears is maddeningly frustrating. At least they finally admitted that Devey was no good, but they did it only after their franchise QB became injured.

              4. Jack, as far as the OL goes, what would you do in the offseason to fix it? Who would you keep, and who would you look to replace? And would you be looking at FAs or high picks in the draft?

              5. Scooter,

                Does Anthony Davis come back?

                Do they believe in Trent Brown?

                If so, they’ve set themselves up at RT.

                At guard I’d think a guy like Richie Incognito would be a good fit at RG.

            2. The previous HC also had a very conservative approach but they were winning so it was kind of a moot point.

              That’s a good point Jack and it’s obvious the Coaching staff came into this season hoping to rekindle the type of offense they ran in 2011-2012. The problem is they didn’t have the horses to run it and aren’t capable of coming up with an alternate plan when it doesn’t work.

              I also agree with you in regards to Baalke, but he appears to be Teflon in the current regime.

            3. The previous HC also had a very conservative approach but they were winning so it was kind of a moot point.

              football is a game of situations. playing conservative is great when you have a top rated defense that can keep you in a game. it’s great when your run game is working.

              but when the run game isn’t working, when your down a few scores, when it’s the 4th quarter; for any number of game situations; you can’t just stick to the conservative game plan. you can’t just call short passing plays underneath the coverage on 3rd down. you can’t choose to simply throw short of the 3rd down marker….just because the team should have done better on 1st and 2nd down. the situation dictates that you need to convert a 3rd down…cause your defense is no longer likely to hold the opponent from scoring…cause it’s later in the game…because…on and on.

              1. Go back and watch any number of games from 2011-2014 and you’ll see plenty of examples of throwing short of the sticks on 3rd down or the line being completely overwhelmed and the QB being sacked while all of the receivers still have their backs to him.

                None of this is anything new. The W-L record is the only difference.

              2. you’re missing the point of situation based football decisions. ya know the part about having a good defense to bail you out and give you another shot. or the part where the run game is working. and they didn’t do that when it was in the 4thQ down by a couple scores. also, often times on third down they had designed short pass plays almost like mesh rub like play…or sort of like a screen…a short pass (like a slant) with blockers to help pave the way for a 3rd down conversion. and not simply an underneath reception that gets tackled short of the sticks.

              3. I agree with Jack (surprise!). That problem was even evident during the Alex years. many fans were very frustrated when VD caught a 6 yard pass on third and 7.

              4. Go back and watch any number of games from 2011-2014 and you’ll see plenty of examples of throwing short of the sticks on 3rd down or the line being completely overwhelmed and the QB being sacked while all of the receivers still have their backs to him.

                I’m sure there are, but in this case what affp is saying is that Harbaugh wouldn’t be as conservative in the same situations Tomsula has and I agree. Harbaugh didn’t take a lot of risk when they were protecting a lead, but he was a lot more aggressive when they were playing from behind.

                None of this is anything new. The W-L record is the only difference.

                That’s a big difference. The running game was always top 5 under Harbaugh and Roman and the passing game was effective in play action because of it. The Oline is partially to blame, but they weren’t exactly healthy on the Oline last year either and played a lot better than the group we are seeing this season.

              5. I’m not missing the point of situation based football. I agree that punting late in a game down 14 makes no sense.

                I also don’t disagree about the screen/rub plays.

                There are still plenty of examples of throws short of the sticks that don’t include those types of plays or the QB ending up on his backside because the routes are taking them to the sticks and the line couldn’t hold up and the QB didn’t dump it off.

                The biggest difference now is the OLine is atrocious, even compared to last season, and they are so poor at running the ball that the defense doesn’t have to respect the run. They just pin their ears back and go.

  2. Sigh, since the coaches cannot devise any third down plays, I will give them one for free.
    I call it the Third Down Bomb.
    Niners are confronted with 3rd and 9 from the 21. Vance should line up wide. Gabbert should put Vance in motion, and use him to pinch in the DE so Gabbert can roll out to give him time. Torrey should hesitate at the 30, do a stutter step then go long. Every other receiver should do short crossing routes or slants. Gabbert should buy time with his legs, then heave the ball as far as he can so Torrey can compete for a jump ball. Several good things can happen. Torrey could score a TD, he could catch it, he could draw a PI flag, or it could fall incomplete. If it is a jump ball, even if the DB catches it, Torrey can tackle him right away. So even if it is intercepted, it essentially is a 65 yard punt.
    I have presented this play before, but since they do not read these posts, I am sure they are totally unaware that this play was postulated before. Here it is again. Maybe Bob Lange could point it out since the coaches could never dreamed that such a play exists.

  3. Drives me nuts when I hear players and coaches talk about “taking what the defense gives you”. Walsh never did that. by definition that cedes control of the game to the other team. Winning teams dictate the terms of the game.

  4. Final comment before braving the Christmas crowds.
    Niners should have enough confidence in their team that they can make 2 yards. Tomsula should make them practice a 2 yard ply over and over until it is automatic. ( Hint- Bruce Miller )

  5. This team does not have the talent to compete , Clear and simple!

    Everything else is wishful thinking!

    Again, it is the GM that needs to be replaced… that is were you start!

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