This is the transcript of my Saturday column.
Two Blaine Gabberts exist: The Blaine Gabbert we look at with our naked eyes, and the Blaine Gabbert according to Geep Chryst, the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator.
Chryst introduced us to his version of Gabbert Thursday morning during his weekly press conference. Chryst seemed to have prepared a speech. Before he answered a single question, he announced he wanted to list the players who had good seasons.
“You can start with the quarterback position,” Chryst said. “I think probably seven games is a large enough sample size for Blaine Gabbert. We really like not just what he’s done in those seven games and the production he’s had, but how he’s continued to improve.”
This was the first clue we were talking about different Gabberts. The Gabbert we’ve seen has regressed the past three weeks.
Last week against the Lions, our Gabbert fumbled on his own 1, passed for 71 yards in the second half and lost. The week before, our Gabbert threw three picks against the Bengals and lost. And the week before that, our Gabbert passed for merely 76 yards through the first three quarters against the Browns and lost.
Our Gabbert is a high-level backup, a bridge to the franchise quarterback, whomever he may be. Geep, tell us more about your Gabbert. He sounds terrific.
“(Gabbert’s) close to 240 yards passing per game,” Chryst said. “I think that the balls that he’s throwing, the accuracy that he’s throwing the balls with, the reads that he’s making, how the ball is being distributed, I think that’s been excellent.”
All this excellence from a quarterback who throws short of the first-down marker on third down almost every time and still hasn’t led the offense to score more than 19 points in a game. Really, Geep?
“Third down is our biggest negative,” Chryst admitted. “But, our biggest positive might be in the red zone. Blaine’s had 13 trips to the red zone and we’ve had 10 touchdowns. A dramatic improvement over the first half of the year and something that I think has become part of his game. He uses his athleticism, his mobility. I think that’s also where he’s probably used the tight ends in a positive way. But yeah, we’re not perfect across the board.”
Not perfect. Not an A-plus, but a solid “A” quarterback — that’s what Chryst wants you to think Gabbert is. Forget everything you’ve seen.
Chryst had to dig deep to find stats to prove his point. Maybe he came to the podium with a cheat sheet or practiced his arguments looking in the mirror that morning.
The red-zone argument doesn’t make sense. Thirteen trips to the red zone in seven games—that’s only 1.9 red-zone appearances per game, which ranks dead last in the NFL. Who cares how often Gabbert scores in the red zone if he almost never gets there?
As Chryst rattled off his Pro-Gabbert stats, it became clear what he was doing: He was telling the 49ers, “Give Gabbert and me at least one whole season together. Don’t fire me.” Chryst was begging for his job right in front of us.
“You can choose whatever metric you want to choose to measure success,” he said, “but over that seven game spread our total offensive numbers have been up and I know they’re not (ranked) 32nd. I know our yards per play, we’ve hit some big pass plays, our yards per play I think it’s 19th in that seven game window. Again, it’s a sample size, choose what metric you may, but you get the feeling that Blaine is playing quality quarterback right now.”
Except you don’t. We all saw Gabbert score zero points in the second half last week against the Lions. You don’t have to be a genius to see Gabbert for what he is — serviceable at best.
Chryst is talking us out of what the naked eye knows to be true.
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.