Niners OC sees some of Alex Smith in Blaine Gabbert


With the San Francisco 49ers moving to Blaine Gabbert for Sunday's tilt against the Atlanta Falcons, offensive coordinator Geep Chryst compared the signal-caller to a certain former Niners quarterback: Alex Smith.

Smith, like Gabbert, was drafted at 21 and needed to adapt from a spread run system into a pocket passer. Chryst, who was with Smith in 2011 and 2012, believes with time and a fresh opportunity Gabbert can follow Smith's path to becoming a stable quarterback.

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"Alex came here, was very young and played, had to slug out a lot of tough situations," Chryst said Thursday, via "We felt like Blaine had all this talent, and as a young player, maybe a change of scenery would be good for him. He's really applied himself well in the classroom. He's engaged and active; he's a really bright guy."

Comparing and contrasting Smith and Gabbert could make your eyes bleed. The Around The NFL Podcast aptly discusses the "Gabbert-zone" for quarterbacks that hover around the 5-to-6 yards per attempt mark. Smith lives in that zone. But at least Smith has become a competent quarterback who can run an offense and win games. We've seen nothing from Gabbert to suggest he can turn it around. 

For his career, Gabbert has a 53.0 completion percentage, 159.4 passing yards per game, a 22-24 TD-INT ratio and a 66.1 passer rating -- the lowest rating in the NFL since 2011. He has a 5-22 record and lost his last 10 starts.

The move to Gabbert feels like the inverse of when Colin Kaepernick usurped Smith's job in 2012. At the time Jim Harbaugh stuck with the player he believed had upside. The move to Gabbert is a desperation heave.

"He does get the ball out differently; that's just his style of play," Chryst said of Gabbert. "We'll see if that matches up with a spark that we want to get, in terms of the pass game, getting the ball out. But our charge is to still get the run game going.

"We have to let it play out ... where we are as an offense, we've got to do something. And we'll leave no stone unturned trying to come up with a plan to win Sunday."

That has to be depressing for San Francisco 49ers fans to read. "We've got to do something" feels like the worst reason to make a changes. Especially one to Blaine Gabbert.